Whitelock rushed back into All Blacks lineup

17:50, Jun 14 2013
All Blacks training
Captain Kieran Read goes high over Ofa Tu'ungafasi, who was brought in for training help.
All Blacks training
New caps Steven Luatua and Francis Saili join Ma'a Nonu on a warm-up run.
All Blacks training
Sam Cane and Matt Todd run through a drill.
All Blacks training
Some of the backs keep warm with a run.
All Blacks training
Ben Afeaki and Tony Woodcock get some passing in.
All Blacks training
Victor Vito and Steven Luatua run through a drill.
All Blacks training
Steven Luatua and Brodie Retallick get ready for an innovative workout in the rain.
All Blacks training
Beauden Barrett warms up with fellow first five Aaron Cruden.
All Blacks training
The injured Dan Carter looks on during a wet All Blacks training.
All Blacks training
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen keeps covered up as the All Blacks train in a windy and wet Auckland.
All Blacks test preparations
Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Julian Savea and Francis Sail react to a kick during a light-hearted moment at the end of All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Matt Todd is tackled by Ben Franks at All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Piri Weepu at All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Piri Weepu shares a joke with All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster at training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Francis Saili practises his kicking at All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Dan Carter enjoys himself at All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Kieran Read surveys the scene at All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
The All Blacks get in some scrum practice at training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
All Blacks test preparations
Israel Dagg at All Blacks training at Linfield Park in Christchurch.
Kieran Read
All Blacks captain Kieran Read plays with daughter Elle during the captain's run at AMI Stadium.
Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick
Sam Whitelock (left) and the man he replaced, Brodie Retallick.
Brodie Retallick
Brodie Retallick gets worked on by the All Blacks physio during a training session on Thursday.
Ma'a Nonu
Ma'a Nonu shares a joke with a team-mate during the captain's run.
Matt Todd and Wyatt Crockett
Matt Todd (left) and Wyatt Crockett play with Crockett's kids at AMI Stadium.
Kieran Read Crockett
Kieran Read with his two daughters Eden (left) and Elle during the All Blacks' final training.
Sam Whitelock
Sam Whitelock participates in the All Blacks captain's run, as (from left) Brodie Retallick, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock and Owen Franks watch.
All Blacks prepare for France
The All Blacks front row gets in some scrum practice in New Plymouth ahead of the last test with France.
All Blacks prepare for France
Halfback Aaron Smith gets in some passing practice in New Plymouth.
All Blacks prepare for France
Blues backrow Steven Luatua looks set to make his All Blacks debut against France this weekend after being named on the bench.
All Blacks prepare for France
Dan Carter training at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth ahead of the All Blacks' last test with France.

Sam Whitelock's injury rehabilitation lasted just three weeks.

When the All Blacks lock fractured a finger on May 24, a ring was put around June 22, the third test against France, as the earliest return date.

Then Brodie Retallick pulled his hamstring and everything changed.

Sam Whitelock
NOT SERIOUS: Sam Whitelock should be fit for the third test against France.

As soon as All Blacks coach Steve Hansen got word the injury could sideline the second rower for up to a month, Whitelock underwent a fitness test and was named to start tonight's test at AMI Stadium.

Whitelock's status as the country's top lock meant the decision was non-negotiable.

"As soon as he [Whitelock] got the all clear we put him straight in," Hansen said. "He's a world-class lock so you wouldn't lose the opportunity to use him."

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So, once again, Jeremy Thrush will remain on the bench - where he sat for the full 80 minutes as the All Blacks beat France 23-13 at Eden Park last weekend.

There was no thought given to using raw Blues blindside flanker Steven Luatua as cover for lock and Hansen said no replacements will be brought into the squad ahead of the third test at New Plymouth.

The French, no doubt geeing themselves up at the chance to again meet a side without Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, are ready for this.

Yesterday French forwards coach Yannick Bru stated he wasn't satisfied with referee Wayne Barnes' scrum rulings at Eden Park.

The return of the experienced Nicholas Mas against Wyatt Crockett, who has been rewarded with another start despite Tony Woodcock being fit, should add more steel to the tourists' front row but Bru believed any dominance may depend on Irish referee Alain Rolland's interpretations.

"We gave him a bad image of the French scrum in the first two games.

"The first freekick we gave away was quite stupid and silly and I shout at the guys because we have to keep in mind the referee is a human being, he never did any scrummaging in his life, Wayne Barnes."

Having watched No 8 Louis Picamoles blow a certain try when he spooned a ropey pass at Eden Park, France know they botched a opportunity to set up their first series win in New Zealand since 1994.

Coach Philippe Saint-Andre has been applauded for selecting Mas but putting the out-of-form Frederic Michalak at first five-eighth raises many questions.

Michalak, who has been preferred ahead of Francois Trinh-Duc for this tour, has only recently returned from a shoulder injury and his form has been solid at best.

The man known as "The Dark Destroyer", captain Thierry Dusautoir, could urge his men to direct more runners around the fringes, keeping the point of attack close to the rucks.

TEAMS

ALL BLACKS: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (c), Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks, Jeremy Thrush, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Beauden Barrett, Rene Ranger

FRANCE: Maxime Medard, Adrien Plante, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Yoann Huget, Frederic Michalak, Maxime Machenaud; Louis Picamoles, Bernard le Roux, Thierry Dusautior (c), Yoann Maestri, Christophe Samson, Nicolas Mas, Dimitri Szarzewski, Thomas Domingo. Reserves: Benjamin Kayser, Vincent Debaty, Luc Ducalcon, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Yannick Nyanga, Brice Dulin, Remi Tales, Mathieu Bastareaud.

Fairfax Media