Sam Whitelock shrugs off injury to stand out
A couple of inches of tape kept Sam Whitelock's season alive on Saturday night.
Whitelock, who was rushed into the All Blacks after Brodie Retallick pulled his hamstring last Thursday, pushed aside concerns he hadn't given his fractured finger long enough to recover when he confronted the French.
Originally overlooked because the digit he injured playing for the Crusaders on May 24 was still on the mend, Whitelock was promoted ahead of rookie Jeremy Thrush when Retallick was invalided out.
Rather than wear a guard to protect the cracked digit, Whitelock just had it strapped with tape and then went into action.
"The finger was fine . . . it was test match rugby and if you're thinking about your own body you shouldn't be out there," he said.
"You should only be out there if you are ready to go. The team comes first, so if you are not right you shouldn't be playing."
Whitelock survived a rugged evening; he injured his left elbow but kept on playing until being replaced by Thrush in the 68th minute.
Whenever the second-rower lingered on the deck, the Crusaders' coaching staff must have held their breath.
With Dominic Bird's season gone because of a ruptured pectoral muscle they will be desperate for Whitelock to remain fit as they seek a place in the Super Rugby playoffs.
France, who lost powerful No 8 Louis Picamoles with a bruised hip, endured a miserable night in the lineouts.
They lost six of their own throws and the ploy of often fielding five men in a shortened lineout backfired.
"I'm not too sure what their theory was," Whitelock said.