Luke Whitelock

Proud brother Luke Whitelock tips Crusaders flanker to hit the big time

France-based All Blacks flanker Luke Whitelock is backing his older brother Sam to continue a remarkable family dynasty by making it all the way to the 2023 World Cup.

Whitelock, who is 29 and currently playing for Pau, is the youngest of four brothers raised on the family dairy farm at Linton, near Palmerston North on New Zealand’s North Island.

He, Sam and George are All Blacks while Adam starred for New Zealand on the Sevens circuit.

All represented Crusaders in Super Rugby, notably lining up together for the first time against the Bulls in 2013, while Sam, 31, tops the family honours board with 117 caps and two World Cups – and may yet achieve a unique hat-trick if he makes it through to France in 2023.

Luke, who won the last of seven caps against Japan in 2018, told TRP: “We’re all so proud of Samuel who’s had an outstanding career in terms of playing over 100 Tests, 150-odd games for the Crusaders and Canterbury and shows no sign of slowing down yet.

“It’s pretty amazing and in a lot of those international matches he’s gone the distance. When you think of the brutality of some of those Tests, that’s impressive seeing him do that.

“He’s only 31, so if he’s still got the motivation and desire to carry on, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at the next World Cup in France, trying to make up for last year.

“The All Blacks will be  disappointed at how it went in Japan but full credit to England in that semi-final, they played a fantastic game and clearly deserved to win on the day. But you have to get over it and New Zealand will use it to drive themselves on.”

While Sam will hope to extend his All Blacks career, Luke’s failure to get any sort of crack at Test level last year confirmed his decision to head north for the Top 14.

“My wife and I were just looking for a different experience,” he says. “I’m 29 now and while there was an option to stay at home and I’d have liked to have played more All Blacks Tests, in rugby there are no guarantees and we just wanted to be in charge of our own destiny.

“By coming to Pau for a couple of years I can give the French competition a good go and sample a few life experiences, by which time I’ll nearly be 32. My brother Adam had to retire early through concussion a few years ago and that put things into perspective for me as well.

“As rugby players, you probably feel you’re 10ft tall and bullet proof but you can be at the mercy of one injury so I just felt the timing was right to sample something else. French rugby’s different but the people here are passionate about the game and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

New Zealand lock Sam Whitelock
Legend: All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock won his 100th Test cap in August 2018 and has gone on to add 17 more to his vast collection. Getty Images

Being the youngest of four siblings can be tough, but Luke recalls: “Having three brothers who all played rugby was pretty special. It meant there was plenty of competition to see who could run the fastest to and from the bus stop and we benefited from working together.

“We put our hands up for any sports – running, cricket, athletics, swimming and basketball – but we all did okay at rugby and things progressed from there. We’d eat our parents out of house and home and mum would cook two roasts thinking she’d save the second one for cold meat the next day, but by 9pm we’d demolished the lot.

“Watching the All Blacks as kids, we all aspired to reach the pinnacle. George was the first, in 2009, then Samuel got capped a year later and it was my turn in 2013. Adam had the Sevens experience as well, which was an awesome achievement for him, and for all of us to play together for the Crusaders was special. In fact, you didn’t realise how special it was at the time.

“It was not until I moved down to the Highlanders in 2016 and George and Adam retired that we realised what it had actually meant. It was an awesome experience and I was so lucky to grow up alongside guys who really incentivised me to succeed in rugby.”

As the Whitelock rugby dynasty enters its twilight years, Luke maintains a close watch on the young back rowers emerging in New Zealand and identifies 20-year-old Crusaders loose forward Cullen Grace as one to watch.

Luke says: “I played provincial rugby with Cullen and he was playing well for the Crusaders this year before Super Rugby stopped. He’s a quiet guy but has a great work ethic and always seems to have an impact in games. He’s certainly one to watch.”

France-based All Blacks flanker Luke Whitelock is backing his older brother Sam to continue a remarkable family dynasty by making it all the way to the 2023 World Cup.

Whitelock, who is 29 and currently playing for Pau, is the youngest of four brothers raised on the family dairy farm at Linton, near Palmerston North on New Zealand’s North Island.

He, Sam and George are All Blacks while Adam starred for New Zealand on the Sevens circuit.

Dynasty: The four Whitelock brothers, Luke, Sam, Adam and George.

All represented Crusaders in Super Rugby, notably lining up together for the first time against the Bulls in 2013, while Sam, 31, tops the family honours board with 117 caps and two World Cups – and may yet achieve a unique hat-trick if he makes it through to France in 2023.

Luke, who won the last of seven caps against Japan in 2018, told TRP: “We’re all so proud of Samuel who’s had an outstanding career in terms of playing over 100 Tests, 150-odd games for the Crusaders and Canterbury and shows no sign of slowing down yet.

“It’s pretty amazing and in a lot of those international matches he’s gone the distance. When you think of the brutality of some of those Tests, that’s impressive seeing him do that.

“He’s only 31, so if he’s still got the motivation and desire to carry on, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at the next World Cup in France, trying to make up for last year.

“The All Blacks will be  disappointed at how it went in Japan but full credit to England in that semi-final, they played a fantastic game and clearly deserved to win on the day. But you have to get over it and New Zealand will use it to drive themselves on.”

While Sam will hope to extend his All Blacks career, Luke’s failure to get any sort of crack at Test level last year confirmed his decision to head north for the Top 14.

“My wife and I were just looking for a different experience,” he says. “I’m 29 now and while there was an option to stay at home and I’d have liked to have played more All Blacks Tests, in rugby there are no guarantees and we just wanted to be in charge of our own destiny.

“By coming to Pau for a couple of years I can give the French competition a good go and sample a few life experiences, by which time I’ll nearly be 32. My brother Adam had to retire early through concussion a few years ago and that put things into perspective for me as well.

“As rugby players, you probably feel you’re 10ft tall and bullet proof but you can be at the mercy of one injury so I just felt the timing was right to sample something else. French rugby’s different but the people here are passionate about the game and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Being the youngest of four siblings can be tough, but Luke recalls: “Having three brothers who all played rugby was pretty special. It meant there was plenty of competition to see who could run the fastest to and from the bus stop and we benefited from working together.

“We put our hands up for any sports – running, cricket, athletics, swimming and basketball – but we all did okay at rugby and things progressed from there. We’d eat our parents out of house and home and mum would cook two roasts thinking she’d save the second one for cold meat the next day, but by 9pm we’d demolished the lot.

“Watching the All Blacks as kids, we all aspired to reach the pinnacle. George was the first, in 2009, then Samuel got capped a year later and it was my turn in 2013. Adam had the Sevens experience as well, which was an awesome achievement for him, and for all of us to play together for the Crusaders was special. In fact, you didn’t realise how special it was at the time.

“It was not until I moved down to the Highlanders in 2016 and George and Adam retired that we realised what it had actually meant. It was an awesome experience and I was so lucky to grow up alongside guys who really incentivised me to succeed in rugby.”

As the Whitelock rugby dynasty enters its twilight years, Luke maintains a close watch on the young back rowers emerging in New Zealand and identifies 20-year-old Crusaders loose forward Cullen Grace as one to watch.

Luke says: “I played provincial rugby with Cullen and he was playing well for the Crusaders this year before Super Rugby stopped. He’s a quiet guy but has a great work ethic and always seems to have an impact in games. He’s certainly one to watch.”

NEALE HARVEY

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