Sabbatical not essential for Sam Whitelock

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 29/06/2013
Sam Whitelock
Heather Ellis
EYES ON THE BALL: Sam Whitelock, during training at Christchurch's Rugby Park.

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Sam Whitelock won't demand a sabbatical clause when he ramps-up his contract negotiations with the New Zealand Rugby Union.

Unlike some of his All Blacks teammates, lock Whitelock, who is also keen to return to the Crusaders next year, says having the holiday option included in his new NZRU deal ahead of the 2015 World Cup is not a priority.

''No, not really. I am young, I'm only 24,'' Whitelock said. ''It's a bit different when you have got some of those older guys and they have played around 100 test matches and things like that.

''At the moment I am keen to keep playing.''

Whitelock's desire to remain on the field should be of immense benefit to the All Blacks and the Crusaders. Learning to juggle players who have been rewarded with sabbaticals is a growing part of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's job portfolio. 

He was without Richie McCaw, who is expected to play his return match for his Christchurch club on July 12, for the recent series against France. Conrad Smith has confirmed he will skip the All Blacks' end-of-season European tour and Dan Carter, who also took a break from the Crusaders' season in 2009, is expected to take another holiday during next year's Super Rugby competition.

Between them McCaw, Smith and Carter have amassed 280 tests. Whitelock has earned 41 caps. There have also been reports that Ben Smith, who has played just 15 tests, may be offered a sabbatical clause if he signs a long-term deal with the NZRU ahead of the 2017 tour by the British and Irish Lions.

The good news for the Crusaders is that Whitelock says he has no desire to play for another franchise.

''I've got three brothers here and I love the Crusaders, so that is where I want to be at the moment.''

Like All Blacks and Crusaders teammate Kieran Read, Whitelock last year opted to sign just a one-year deal with the NZRU. Both are managed by the Essentially Group. 

Read (52 tests) may also have a sabbatical option inserted into his contract to sweeten his deal ahead of the 2015 World Cup and beyond. There can be little doubt the NZRU will concentrate on signing the pair who will be in their prime for the 2015 World Cup.

Whitelock expects discussions with the NZRU to be renewed soon.

''I'm still in negotiations. That (the test series against France) was my main focus, so I haven't really had a lot of time to talk about those things. When we have a bit of time over the next few weeks we will start nutting some of those things out.''

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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