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Whitelock set for Pau debut

Whitelock set for Pau debut

All BlacksDecember 14, 2023

Former All Blacks lock and New Zealand's most capped Test player, Sam Whitelock, is expected to make his playing debut for Pau in France's Top 14 on December 23.

The 153-cap and two-time Rugby World Cup winner will appear in the side's game with Clermont, but for the moment, he won't have younger brother Luke, the captain of the Pau said, alongside him, he is recovering from elbow surgery.

Whitelock Senior told Midi Olympique he was aware of the expectations of him, especially after the disappointment French clubs have felt with some other New Zealand players over the years.

But in choosing Pau, he took advice from former All Blacks teammates Colin Slade and Conrad Smith, who have played for Pau.

It also helped that Luke had played for the club since 2019.

While Luke was not actively involved in his older brother's recruitment, he was sounded out on whether he was likely to consider an offer.

Pau's general manager, Pierre Lahore, said the club recruited Luke for his abilities, not with a longer-term view of attracting his brother to the club.

"When Sam's name came up in discussions on our needs with agents, we did touch on the subject with Luke before progressing.

"We didn't ask him to negotiate for us as an intermediary but to ask him what he thought about it and how he saw things.

"Without him, Sam's recruitment would still have been possible, but it is clear that Luke's presence brought a little extra and was a factor in Sam's choice."

Whitelock said Luke had told him for several years that he should play in Pau.

Sam said, "Our wives get along very well, as do our children."

Pau locals have already realised the special brotherly relationship the pair has.

"The people here are starting to realise what we are by seeing us together constantly. We are very close.

"Coming to Pau was an easy decision. I phoned Luke to ask if it was a place where I could be comfortable and if it was a city where I could come with my family. That was how I made my decision."

Sam, an All Blacks and Crusaders captain, said he would have no issues taking an order from Luke.

"What is certain is that it is easier to play with him than against him. I've already played against him, and he should have picked up a few yellow cards."

Pau coach Sebastien Piquerot said there was one thing he was sure of with Sam joining the club.

"He totally symbolises our project by the humility he spreads, and by being the person he is through his roots, his family, his education...He also symbolises our ambition through what he has achieved."

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