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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 19 July, 2018
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Whitelock hoping to give All Blacks major boost by returning for Dublin clash

The second row has been sidelined since 22 October with an ankle problem.

Whitelock speaking to the media in Dublin this afternoon.
Whitelock speaking to the media in Dublin this afternoon.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

NEW ZEALAND COULD be boosted by the return of Sam Whitelock for Saturday’s return clash with Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

The 82-time capped second row missed Ireland’s historic victory over the All Blacks in Chicago with an ankle injury but is hopeful of proving his fitness in time for the weekend.

While Whitelock has still to hit certain markers on his comeback trail, the 28-year-old will return to full training with the squad in Dublin this week as he steps up his recovery.

“It’s been really good,” he said of his recovery. “I’ve been doing the right things over the last couple of weeks to try and get myself back to being 100%.

“I just have to train fully and if there’s anything that will come up it will come up in that. I’m feeling pretty good, obviously there’s some things I haven’t done yet but once I get into that I’ll know how it is and where abouts I am.”

Should Whitelock prove his fitness in time to be selected by Steve Hansen, his presence in the second row alongside the returning Brodie Retallick would be a major boost for the All Blacks.

Ireland clinically exploited New Zealand’s weakness at the line-out during the 40-29 victory at Soldier Field but being able to restore their formidable first-choice pairing would provide an entirely different proposition for Joe Schmidt’s men on Saturday.

Australia New Zealand Rugby Test Source: Rob Griffith

“There’s a lot of things we have to improve from Chicago, and that’s one of them,” Whitelock added.

“But it’s right across the board because you can’t just focus on one thing because something else will fall away. We have to be aware of it but we can’t be obsessed with it.

“We just have to wait and see if I get selected and if I can get through some of the things I haven’t done yet. Full scrums is one of them but if I get out there I’d love to have the opportunity to put my best foot forward and play the way I know I can and hopefully help the team out in any way I can.”

The party line from the All Blacks camp is that this trip has not materialised into a revenge mission after they surrendered their 18-match winning streak in America — but you’d be a fool to believe the world champions aren’t desperate to make amends this time around.

Upon the squad’s arrival in Dublin, the players learned of the events back home, where a host of earthquakes hit New Zealand’s south island.

The players and management haven been able to contact friends and family with assistant coach Ian Foster saying the thoughts of the squad is with those affected.

“The most important thing right now is that everyone is safe back in New Zealand, that is our first thought,” he said. “Once we sort that out we will move onto the next task.”

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Ryan Bailey

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