All Blacks keen to make impression at NFL stronghold

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It's been 10 weeks since he has been with the team due to paternal leave during the Rugby Championship in Australia, and while he had played for Canterbury in the Bunnings Cup, he relished being back on the road with the All Blacks.


Whitelock said he had enjoyed his first week back with the squad and was looking forward to playing, especially in the United States, where they didn't play too often.


While the side was a heavy favourite going into the game there was still a requirement to build their platform before extending themselves and taking excessive risks.


"We'd love to score off every opportunity, and that doesn't matter who we play against, but if there is an opportunity we want to back ourselves and take it," he said.


It was a case of taking the right options, not pushing early passes, but taking a breakdown and then looking to make what was a 50-50 chance, a more likely option.


"That's the hard thing as a rugby player, you've got to make sure you're making those decisions continuously through your game, and sometimes when you think it's really on, you're better off not to push the pass and just wait and let it happen naturally," he said.


Whitelock had been impressed with All Blacks new boy Josh Lord, a lock who has roomed with him for the week.


"He's absorbed everything and he's just got to go out there and trust himself. He's trained well this week and it's nice he's got a few Chiefs boys out there that he knows well so I'm sure he'll go out there and do himself, and his family, proud like everyone wants to in their first one," he said.

The All Blacks got to look at the FedEx Stadium venue at the captain's run on Friday.


Whitelock said it wasn't until he was inside that he appreciated how many people (73,000) the ground accommodated.


"It has that feel, you can tell it is a special ground, and there have been some amazing things that have happened there. It's a great privilege for us as All Blacks to be playing there," he said.


On previous occasions, he said crowds attending their games in the United States had been passionate in their enjoyment of the event and not so much about supporting the US Eagles.


There was also a realisation that Americans were considering whether they could host a Rugby World Cup, something they were keen to do in 2027.


"You can tell there is some momentum going into rugby here and that is pretty cool to see. I think that is going to flow on to the game," he said.


The infrastructure was in place and, with the American ability to build an event around games, it would make for a memorable World Cup.


"It would be a pretty cool place to come, for players to play in and for supporters to come and be a tourist and have a look around."


Whitelock only learned it was 10 years since the 2011 Rugby World Cup triumph when friends messaged him on Friday.


He hadn't thought about the anniversary until then, but he said it was awesome to think back to the final.


He remembered he was several times asked questions about being 23 years old and not being born when the All Blacks had first won the World Cup 24 years earlier and not having won it since.


"It was cool to be a part of that. It was the start of my All Black career and, hopefully, we can have that in a couple of years for some of the young guys here too."


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