Sam Whitelock expects the unexpected from Wallabies

Date published: October 7 2020 - David Skippers

Australia’s coaching ranks may have a high quota of northern hemisphere experience in recent years but All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock is expecting the unexpected in Sunday’s first Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington.

Whitelock said the coaches led by New Zealander Dave Rennie, who has been in Scotland, might bring some northern traits and methods. But, all would be revealed once the Test kicked-off. It would be up to the All Blacks to cope with that.

Rennie was Whitelock’s coach with the New Zealand U20s side when they won the world tournament, and he had been a coach who had brought his side together well. It would be up to the All Blacks to ensure they were as connected, if not more connected, than Rennie was likely to have achieved with the Wallabies.

Ability to adapt

Not having the benefit of observing the Australian team approach as a result of the usual June window it would be a test of the All Blacks’ ability to adapt.

“You have to prepare for a bit of everything but it is going to be an enjoyable challenge when we get out there and adapt on the run and see how it goes,” Whitelock told the All Blacks’ official website.

Nothing would change with the Australian approach. They had always turned up and challenged the All Blacks with their physical game.

Whitelock said the All Blacks also hadn’t had the benefit of usual exposure to Australia’s players through Super Rugby due to Covid-19, but plenty of footage associated with Australian games and players was available so they were aware of player capabilities.

Preparation had been different for him this year, but it was something that had been beneficial for him. His time in Japan was reduced to four months instead of the six months planned. He had come home and been able to have time away from the game with the resultant benefits in his recovery from niggles and strains.

As a result, he felt he was in a better spot than he would have been at the same time a year earlier.

Having Ian Foster taking the reins as coach had also been refreshing for those players involved with earlier coaches. In Whitelock’s case, that was with Sir Graham Henry and Sir Steve Hansen.

There was also a need to establish the leadership protocols under new skipper flanker Sam Cane. That was something that was an important part of the preparation with the vital need having systems in place so that Cane didn’t feel isolated in his role, he said.