Jack Whetton excited to take on Blues mates
Gary Whetton was a proud spectator when his son Jack made his Super Rugby debut on Canberra Stadium last month, but perhaps understandably the Blues chairman's support won't be as evident tonight.
The former All Black captain and 180-game Auckland rugby stalwart was happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with his boy at the post-match presentation following the Brumbies 25-15 victory over the Stormers on March 22, but the 58-test lock will not be among the visiting entourage attending the round eight clash.
Whetton and his wife Jane were keeping their distance, a reasonable decision considering the Blues were attempting to inflict a second straight defeat on the Australian conference leaders - the franchise that offered Jack a fulltime Super Rugby contract, an improvement on the wider training group placement offered by Dad's team.
''They're not over this time,'' said Whetton, who has been named on the Brumbies bench for a third successive week.
The 2-metre chip-off-the-old-block attributed the absence of his parents to a scheduling clash, though there would inevitably be an element of divided loyalties between father and son.
But Whetton, who signed the last available Brumbies contract for 2014 in October, certainly had no qualms about taking on many of his former teammates in last year's Auckland ITM Cup side.
''I guess there's a few guys I know quite well, so it should be exciting,'' said Whetton, who has made a smooth transition from Auckland to the more austere Australian capital.
''I'm thoroughly enjoying my time here.
''When I first got here it was a shock to the system. Becoming a fulltime professional you really have to step your game up.
''I've loved every bit of it. It's been my dream for a long time to play Super Rugby.''
Whetton was a second half substitute against the Stormers in round six, and the highlight of his cameo was a last-minute scrum heave that culminated in a penalty try.
''It's always good as a tight forward when you can push over and get a result like that. It was very pleasing.''
A New Zealand provincial rugby debutant for Northland in 2012, Whetton was one of three specialist locks in the Brumbies squad, though Wallabies blindside flanker Scott Fardy currently started in the second row alongside Sam Carter.
He initially benefited from South African Etienne Oosthuizen opting not to return to Canberra and then Leon Power's knee injury saw him elevated to a bench spot.
The Blues have their own locking issues with former All Black Tom Donnelly joining Culum Retallick and Patrick Tuipolotu in the casualty ward after he strained a calf while warming up to play the Highlanders last week.
''They've lost a few but with (No.8) Stephen Luatua there... he can easily slip into lock,'' he said, noting new captain and blindside Jerome Kaino also added experience and a viable lineout option.
Whetton, meanwhile, was not expecting any special correspondence from his father in the lead-up to a game where the Brumbies would be attempting to bounce back from a shock loss to the Rebels in Melbourne.
''He just says the same thing over and over again. Just worry about what your job is and don't worry about anything else, make your tackles and make your runs. It's the same message every week. He's a bit of a broken record sometimes.''
The Brumbies yesterday made one enforced change to the starting line-up that lost 32-24 to the Rebels, promoting Siliva Siliva from the bench after 91-cap Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore was ruled out with a knee injury.
Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Joe Tomane, Tevita Kuridrani, Pat McCabe, Robbie Coleman, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen (captain), Jarrad Butler, Jordan Smiler, Sam Carter, Scott Fardy, Ben Alexander, Siliva Siliva, JP Smith. Reserves: Josh Mann-Rea, Ruan Smith, Ruaidhri Murray, Jack Whetton, Lachlan McCaffrey, Conrad Hoffmann, Andrew Smith, Christian Lealiifano.
Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, George Moala, Ma'a Nonu, Tevita Li, Simon Hickey, Bryn Hall, Steven Luatua, Brendon O'Connor, Jerome Kaino (c), Hayden Triggs, Liaki Moli, Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: James Parsons, Sam Prattley, Angus Ta'avao, Jordan Manihera, Luke Braid, Sonatane Takulua, Francis Saili, Benji Marshall.