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All Blacks: World Champions name squad for Ireland tests

21-year-old Luke Whitelock was the only surprise inclusion when Steve Hansen named his first 35-man New Zealand squad.

Image: Barry Aldworth/Sports Inc/Press Association Images

CRUSADERS FORWARD LUKE Whitelock was surprised to be named in the All Blacks’ 35-man squad for the June Tests against Ireland.

Luke, the youngest of the four Whitelock brothers in the Crusaders, still seemed shell-shocked at the Crusaders training on Monday, saying that he was initially suspicious of the text message that came on Sunday informing him of his inclusion.

“I got a text last night and it was a bit of shock and I wasn’t too sure about it. Considering the limited time (with the Crusaders) it was a bit of a surprise, but I’m hugely stoked and excited about the opportunity,” he said.

Whitelock, whose older brothers George and Sam have both worn the All Blacks strip, said he had not spoken with new All Blacks head coach, Steve Hansen, and was unsure whether he was seen as a No. 8 or a No. 6 or someone who could fill both loose forward roles.

“I guess it’s all pretty simple – I’ve got to make sure I perform and make the most of it.”

Whitelock, who captained New Zealand to their fourth successive Junior World Championship in Italy last year, was in the Crusaders wider training group last year before making this year’s 30-man squad.

He made his debut off the bench against the Chiefs and has made seven appearances, starting in just two games, once as flanker and at No. 8 in the loss to the Rebels on Saturday.

Opportunity

The 21-year-old does not know whether he will make the final 30 when the group is culled by five on June 3.

“It’s what they (coaches) are thinking but it is a great opportunity for me and it is about how I present myself. I’ll keep pushing from the bottom and really soak up as much as I can.”

Whitelock now intends pushing for a more permanent spot in the Crusaders starting line-up.

“I need to keep developing my game and show that you’re good enough to make the team every week by performing on the field. That’s the biggest thing.”

New Zealand squad: Charlie Faumuina, Ma’a Nonu, Keven Mealamu, Piri Weepu, Ali Williams, Tony Woodcock, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Richard Kahui, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Brodie Retallick, Ben Tameifun, Sonny Bill Williams, Beauden Barrett, Cory Jane, Julian Savea, Brad Shields, Conrad Smith, Victor Vito, Dan Carter, Wyatt Crockett, Israel Dagg, Andy Ellis, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Luke Romano, Luke Whitelock, Samuel Whitelock, Tamati Ellison, Andrew Hore, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Adam Thomson.

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