Whitelock rushed back into All Blacks lineup

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:02 15/06/2013
Sam Whitelock
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NOT SERIOUS: Sam Whitelock should be fit for the third test against France.

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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.

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."

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.

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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

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