After ending his time in New Zealand, the most-capped All Black Sam Whitelock has begun his next chapter away from his homeland. Whitelock has made the move to Top 14 side Section Paloise, and is ready for what he calls an “immense challenge”.
The two-time Rugby World Cup winner spoke to French rugby outlet Midi Olympique in Pau’s mid-week media, and discussed his approach to his first venture away from New Zealand. Whitelock narrowly missed out on becoming the first player ever to win three Rugby World Cups last October, as New Zealand were defeated by South Africa 12-11 in Paris.
The legendary lock also highlighted how his brother Luke had an influence upon his decision, with the two brothers now re-united in the Pyrenees mountains.
“It’s an immense challenge. I came for the challenge and to discover another culture, another way of playing.
“It was a very easy decision thanks to him. I called my brother Luke to ask if this is a place where I could be comfortable with my family, he said yes. My brother has been urging me to come for several years. Luke is my little brother, there were some family discussions to see if I would listen to him.”
“Like everyone here, we want to win. I would be disappointed to imagine that a rugby player goes to a club for anything other than to win! We are a family of four boys so it has always been like this for us. Competition is part of my life. The matches I saw during the World Cup were very impressive in terms of the style of play. I hope I can make an impact.”
Whitelock is one of 10 members of the All Blacks 2023 Rugby World Cup squad, who have left New Zealand for moves abroad. The majority of the exits are in favour of Japan, however Whitelock is joined by prop Nepo Laulala (Toulouse) and wing Leicester Fainga’anuku (Toulon) in the French top flight. Whitelock discussed why he opted for the move to Pau, as apposed to joining the likes of Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga in the Japan Rugby League One.
“To know why the others left for Japan, you would have to ask them. For me, it was a life choice to have been there. But it’s not just rugby that made me turn to France. Pau is known as a quiet city. I know it’s been sixty years since Pau won a title but I think we can do it.”
“I am aware of these expectations, ” he said. These are conversations that I had with certain New Zealanders who passed through France such as Colin Slade, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith or Jamie Mackintosh. Embracing the culture and speaking French are the priorities before I can actually provide and share advice.”