Lions tour: All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock pumped to ride the Lions rollercoaster
By Sam Whitelock's standards, the excitement is positively giddy.
The 28-year-old experienced and level-headed All Black lock is not known for his over-exuberance in the leadup to a test. On the Byron Kelleher scale of fizziness, he resides somewhere down round the baseline.
That's just his way. His manner. He is a magnificent athlete and fabulous rugby player when that whistle blows; but in the buildup the now 85-test lock much prefers the cool, calculated approach.
But not this week. Even he is just a little revved up for this once-in-a-career three-test series against the British and Irish Lions which gets under way at Eden Park on Saturday night.
"This first test sits right up there," said Whitelock. "It's something only a few great All Blacks get to do. Some guys can have outstanding 10-year careers and never get to play against them. It's very fortunate for this current squad to be involved.
"Comparing it to other big games, there's a similar amount of pressure there, with the hype and the atmosphere. It's been one of those things that we've been talking about all year, 'just wait till the Lions get here'.
"Now it's here and the boys are really excited about it. You can see the energy out there. It's something really easy to get up for."
That was when cheeky fellow forward Sam Cane chipped in to prove it really was something special.
"Sam likened it to the first time he went to Disneyland," said Cane, grinning broadly. "His parents told him they were going at the end of the year, and when it finally got to the week, he was pretty excited."
"Yeah," responded Whitelock, "it's like you're on the rollercoaster every day."
Cane admitted the week was a bit different, in which you tread a fine line between embracing the occasion, and also taking care of the business you needed to.
"It's good to recognise what an opportunity is and be grateful for that, first and foremost. But throughout the week you can't throw in some special things you haven't done in other weeks because it's a special game.
"You've got to trust what you've always done to set yourself up to play well in the past. But there's plenty of excitement because this has been a long time coming, it's test week and there's a bit of a spring in the step."
Whitelock has also been on the losing end already against these Saturday Lions (for the Crusaders) and has a fair idea about what's coming.
"The Lions really suffocated us and put pressure on us," said the 2.02m lock. "Our discipline in the Crusaders game was not anywhere near where it had been throughout the year, and we suffered because of it, and allowed them to kick to the corners, kick penalties and build scoreboard pressure through it.
"There were good learnings for myself and the other guys involved and hopefully we've passed those on to the whole squad."
Both Whitelock and Cane were sure of one other thing: that these old-school Lions tours should be retained at all costs.
"There just so much rich history and rugby is a lot about history and traditions. Long may it continue," said Cane.
Added Whitelock: "I totally agree. You ask anyone walking down the street and they'll talk about previous tours, whether it be Lions or other international sides, playing three-test series. Playing the same team three times is a challenge, and hopefully these tours stay around."