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Whitelock as surprised as anyone

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Sportal.co.nz     15 May 2012     Getty Images

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."

Whitelock, whose older brothers George and Sam have both worn the All Blacks strip, said he hadn't been in discussion 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 its 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.

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."

Blackadder admitted he had not expected Whitelock to be summoned so early in his career.

"I'm a little surprised but really pleased for him. They believe he's got a really good future which is why we've put him in [the Crusaders]. We believe in him and he's got a great future but like everyone else I was a little surprised," Blackadder said.

"It's good to see a few young guys in there like Luke and Brad Shields so they're obviously selecting with an eye to the future as well."