The veteran second-row surpassed Richie McCaw with his 149th New Zealand cap
Veteran second-row Sam Whitelock broke the All Blacks appearance record by coming off the bench against Italy to win his 149th cap, surpassing Richie McCaw on the all-time list.
Whitelock also drew level with former flanker McCaw and England’s World Cup-winning prop Jason Leonard on 22 Rugby World Cup matches with his second-half cameo against the Azzurri in Lyon.
McCaw was in attendance at the OL Stadium in France to see his record surpassed in the flesh. Now, only fellow lock Alun Wyn Jones (170) has more Test caps than 34-year-old Whitelock.
Jones, who surprisingly announced his international retirement in the lead-up to this World Cup, has 158 caps for Wales and a further 12 for the British and Irish Lions.
Watch Sam Whitelock record moment
Whitelock was introduced after 49 minutes, replacing Shannon Frizell in a reshuffle that saw Scott Barrett move to lock. The towering second-row came on just after Ange Capuozzo had scored a consolation try in the corner for Italy and helped the All Blacks immediately reassert their dominance.
A charge down set Barrett away and it was Whitelock’s lock partner Brodie Retallick who eventually crashed over from close range out on the left edge.
During the week, All Blacks coach Ian Foster insisted the fact he had decided to only name Whitelock among the replacements would not take any shine off the incoming Pau forward’s achievement.
He said: “I don’t think it takes the romance out of it (that Whitelock is on the bench). This is a credit to Sam, every game he is achieving something new at the moment. He equalled a record last week, he’s going to beat it this week. He’s got 150 (caps) coming up and then he’s got the most capped All Black in World Cups. Every day is a bit of a statement of something he’s achieving.
“We will do all our celebration of that achievement after this game. Right now what the team needs to achieve is bigger than the individual.”