Good news for Crusaders and Canterbury fans, with 115-Test All Black Sam Whitelock set to return to one or both of those clubs, if rugby returns in 2020.
According to New Zealand’s Super Rugby website, the 31-year old featured on Sky Sport’s the Breakdown and told Jeff Wilson, with the Japan league now cancelled, he’s still hoping to play some rugby this year.
“We are pretty gutted the Japan competition has been cancelled, we understand, but we were sitting pretty well on the table. But we are back in New Zealand at the moment and we will make our way back to Christchurch once we are allowed to travel a bit further.
“We will head back there and hopefully meet back up with the Crusaders or Canterbury, whatever competition kicks off first.”
Whitelock signed a four-year contract extension with New Zealand Rugby last year, which allowed him to have a sabbatical. He was set to miss this year’s Super Rugby competition, having linked up with Japanese club, the Panasonic Wild Knights, on a short-term contract.
He’s been heavily involved in talks with the Rugby Players Association, Super Rugby clubs and Provincial Unions, as well as women’s and Sevens players and administrators. Whitelock admits it’s been a challenging time, but good brains have been put together to try and come up with some good solutions.
“We are going through a number of scenarios. Whether we start playing at the first of a month, 15 days in or at the end of a month and we are doing that all through the year. We are working out whether we can play domestically, men’s, women’s, and sevens, or can we actually play internationally. It may even start domestically and then a couple of months in, the borders open up and we can travel overseas to Australia or Japan or the traditional SANZAAR countries.
“So, it’s all those different possibilities that have been looked at, and there are a number of calendars out there that we are debating. As players, we just have to be ready to go when we do get the information from the government saying we can get into it at this level.”
Whitelock said players are taking the approach at the moment that they are in off season.
“When we get the green light, there is going to be a three to four week lead in before a competition can start because we have to scrum against each other and practice line outs and contact and all those things that make rugby great.”
The prospect of a North v South game is something that really appeals to Whitelock.
“For me personally, I’ve never played a North v South match and I’ve heard a few great stories about how it used to be the grudge match of the year. We are looking at that and All Blacks trials if we can’t travel internationally.