Players reflect on vast shadow of retired All Black Sam Whitelock

Players reflect on vast shadow of retired All Black Sam Whitelock

Sam Whitelock, All Black lock and New Zealand's most capped Test player, may have missed out on becoming the first player to win three World Cup winner's medals, but he left Test rugby with reputation enhanced.

He still completed the World Cup, having played 26 Rugby World Cup matches, a record across the 10 completed tournaments.

Whitelock, who won gold medals at the 2011 and 2015 tournaments, acknowledged that while sport could be cruel, that was one reason why so many loved it.

As Whitelock's contribution to the international game was assessed by Rugby World magazine in Britain in its post-World Cup edition, it said his most iconic effort was during the quarterfinal against Ireland.

Having come on as a substitute after Scott Barrett and Brodie Retallick started the game, he was in the thick of the thrilling action that saw the All Blacks hold out a strong Ireland surge of 37 phases.

His play in the 84th minute to achieve a turnover that sealed the vital decision to end one of the best games of rugby seen.

Teammate and No. 8 Ardie Savea's reaction summed up the play.

"What I remember was Sammy Whitelock getting that penalty. [I was] screaming and just relieved and very, very happy."

Whitelock said after the final loss against South Africa that it was only starting to sink in that France would be his new permanent home when he takes up a position with Pau.

"It's a bit weird. I am still here with the team [the All Blacks] and speaking English. It's going to be completely different when we get back, but that is a month away."

Uruguay centre Juan Manuel Alonso said his side would never forget how Whitelock spoke to them after they presented him with a 150-cap commemorative Uruguay shirt.

"He gave a speech - that was really, really nice. He said he never expected to play one cap, and now he's played 150, and he had goosebumps, and he was really proud of our World Cup.

"It's really an honour for us to play someone like that that."

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