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Whitelock growing into All Blacks role
08:15 AEST Thu Nov 22 2012

Sam Whitelock says the title of senior All Blacks lock is resting more comfortably on his more mature frame following the post-World Cup departure of Brad Thorn.

Whitelock, capped 37 times, has stepped out from Thorn's considerable shadow and is now undoubtedly New Zealand's first-choice lock.

Since making his Test debut in 2010, the Canterbury 24-year-old has packed 10kg onto his lanky frame while maintaining a commanding and aerobic presence about the park.

"When I was younger, especially at school, I was a bit of a beanpole or a rake as I was called," Whitelock said.

"But I'm starting to get to the age now that I'm becoming a bit more of a man, I'm starting to maintain my weight a lot easier, whereas when I was younger it would fall off me pretty quickly."

With veteran lock Ali Williams injured for large parts of the year, the job as Whitelock's second row partner initially fell upon either fellow-Crusader Luke Romano or Chiefs giant Brodie Retallick.

The rookie pair have taken strides in filling what was shaping as a potential void this season.

Coach Steve Hansen's up-tempo game plan seems to suit the pair as well as Whitelock.

"It's great playing an expansive style, which is the style we played at school, and I think it suits a lot of the tight forwards' game," Whitelock said.

"As long as you're fit and healthy it goes really well, you've just got to make sure you're ready to go and ready to work hard, that's a given expectation of this side."

Welsh pair Luke Charteris and Bradley Davies don't carry the status of some other locking combinations in world rugby but Whitelock said the pair had his respect.

"Without that you get into trouble, no matter where they are in their career. If they take someone lightly they come unstuck and learn the lessons that way."