Sir John Kirwan tips ‘most improved’ lock as All Blacks bolter ahead of ‘impossible’ task of replacing Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock

Colin Newboult
Sir John Kirwan has tipped his replacement for All Blacks legends Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock.

Sir John Kirwan has tipped his replacement for All Blacks legends Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock.

Sir John Kirwan and Jeff Wilson believe that Blues lock Sam Darry has what it takes to make the next step and represent the All Blacks.

The 23-year-old has impressed this season as the Auckland franchise finished in second position in the Super Rugby Pacific table.

They comfortably won their quarter-final against Fijian Drua to set up a clash with the Brumbies at home in the last-four.

Darry missed the clash last weekend but has returned to the XV for the match with the Canberra outfit on Friday.

Kirwan was asked on The Breakdown who he could see forcing their way into Scott Robertson’s All Blacks squad and his response was unequivocal.

“Darry,” he said, before adding. “I just think he’s been the most improved this year. He might not be three but he will be forth lock for sure. I think he will be in the squad.

“It’s one of the positions in the All Blacks that, if you’re an All Black, you would be worried about. You’re going, ‘where are we lacking depth?’ I think one of the only positions is actually lock.

“He’s done enough this year. However, he’s got to have a blinder this week and a blinder in the final.”

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Darry has endured his injury issues over the past couple of seasons, missing a number of games in both 2023 and 2024, but Jeff Wilson does not believe that it is a concern as Robertson seeks to find the replacements for Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock.

“When he has been out there, he’s looked really, really good. I’m not so worried about the injury thing, it’s the type of player you would need at the next level,” Wilson said.

“He’s certainly filled out over the last two years. He came up from Christchurch and went to the Blues and it took him a little bit of a while to put on the frame, but I think the frame’s there now for the next level.

“It was never going to be easy, actually let’s say impossible, to replace Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, so we were always going to have a big hole.

“Scott Barrett fills one of those massively, he’s as good as those guys I believe in an All Black jersey in terms of performance.”

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‘Heavy lifting’

It is the unfortunate injury to fellow Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu which has helped Darry’s selection chances, but he will not be favourite to start against England next month.

Scott Barrett will certainly play if fit while Tupou Vaa’i is probably the next in line to partner him in the second-row after an outstanding season for the Chiefs.

After that, it is completely up in the air for the bench role with a number of players, including Darry, in the fight for the position.

“If you look at the All Blacks set-up, Vaa’i and Barrett will do the majority of the heavy lifting, it’s more that support guy who’s going to come in if there’s an injury. But you’re also growing them in that position now that Patrick’s out,” All Blacks centurion Mils Muliaina added.

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