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'Colossal' Whitelock lauded for NZ showing

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/11/2016 Angelo Risso

<span style="font-size:13px;">Returning All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock made 20 tackles as his side defeated Ireland, and came in for particular praise from his coach.</span> © Phil Walter/Getty Images Returning All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock made 20 tackles as his side defeated Ireland, and came in for particular praise from his coach. Colossal.

That was the word All Blacks boss Steve Hansen used to describe returning second-rower Sam Whitelock after a lung-busting display in his side's 21-9 win over Ireland.

The Crusaders ace, back from an ankle sprain, played the full 80 minutes in Dublin as the Kiwis secured revenge over an Irish outfit that upset them 40-29 two weeks earlier.

In that time Whitelock made an impressive 20 tackles and pilfered an early lineout from 210cm Irish lock Devin Toner, while also providing a cool on-field head as the Irish applied pressure.

Ireland enjoyed two-thirds of possession at the Aviva Stadium and were handed an offensive platform through 14 All Blacks penalties and two sin-binnings.

But the world champions' defence held firm in an iron-like display, locking out the Irish and restricting them to just three penalty goals.

Whitelock, 27, told NZ Newswire he had nothing left in the tank after repelling wave after wave of green alongside locking partner Brodie Retallick.

"The ankle wasn't too bad, the lungs were heaving a wee bit there but I was aware it was going to happen and just had to bite down on the mouth guard," Whitelock said.

"The guys were encouraging me at the end there just to keep doing my job and getting up nice and fast from the breakdown."

The Dublin Test marked the first match since last month's third Bledisloe that Whitelock and Retallick, who have a combined 142 caps, took to the field together.

The Chiefs second-rower, 25, added to Whitelock's tally with 17 of his own tackles and an offload to boot, and also played out the full 80.

Hansen couldn't speak highly enough of the pair after struggling without them in defence and at the set-piece in Chicago.

"They're probably two of the best locks in world rugby when fit and playing well," Hansen said.

"Sam today was colossal, to play 80 minutes after not playing since his injury in the last Bledisloe, he was fantastic."

However, Hansen was unperturbed by suggestions the towering pair were difficult to replace in the All Blacks set-up, having played together for so long.

Stand-ins Patrick Tuipulotu and Scott Barrett were slowly working their way to Test level, while the absent Luke Romano also provided an option.

"We've got that ability to fill that gap, it's just giving them the opportunities to do so," Hansen said.

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