A chastened Sam Whitelock admits Steve Hansen didn't miss with his blunt "message" when he dumped him.
Last week All Blacks coach Hansen stung lock Whitelock's pride when outing his poor form as the reason he replaced him with Brodie Retallick against Argentina in Wellington. Now, somewhat bizarrely, Whitelock was won a reprieve.
Although Hansen said he had no grizzles about Retallick's performance in the 21-5 win over Los Pumas, he has relegated the 21-year-old to the bench for tomorrow night's test against the Springboks in Dunedin.
"It was not about form for him," Hansen said in reference to Retallick.
"It was about looking after him. We really needed Sammy to perform [when he came on in the second half] last week after getting the message and he did."
So Whitelock's expulsion from the run-on team lasted just seven days.
This is a clear warning for Whitelock. Considered an automatic starter for the All Blacks since mid 2011, he now knows Hansen will offer him few favours.
"Shag is really honest and that is what we want. You want honest feedback, not someone who is beating around the bush," Whitelock said.
"Around the field was probably the thing I knew I needed to work on. There's an issue there, so I have to make sure I fix that this week."
Although Whitelock's performances in the set-pieces had been respectable, Hansen let the axe fall when he noted his statistics for striking rucks and completing tackles had slipped.
"It's never nice being told that [you have been dropped] but, you know, we are all professional athletes and that's part of it," he said.
"I'm looking to impose myself throughout the whole game and not just in parts. I didn't know how long it would be - whether I would get another shot or what."
Meanwhile, Whitelock's parents, Braeden and Caroline, have elected to watch sons George, Adam and Luke in Canterbury's Ranfurly Shield challenge in Taranaki tomorrow rather than watch Sam play in Dunedin.
Consideration was given to flying south after the afternoon match in New Plymouth but the schedule was too tight.
"There was a bit of questioning where they were going to go - but they are going up to Taranaki and are going to watch that."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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