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Retallick, Whitelock fight for NZ fitness

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 8/11/2016 Angelo Risso

Kiwi bash brothers Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock missed their side's shock 40-29 loss to Ireland last week, and it certainly showed.

The locking duo, absent with concussion and an ankle sprain respectively, could only stare in horror at the TV as the All Blacks conceded three first-half lineout steals and fell behind 25-8 at the interval.

And despite a trademark second-half surge, pulling to within four points of victory with five minutes remaining, the Irish saw out the match to end deserved winners in Chicago.

"We didn't leave (NZ) until Sunday night so we got up and watched the game, the 25-year-old Retallick told reporters on Tuesday.

"It's tough enough to not be there and be a part of it, but to see us lose, it wasn't so great."

Whitelock, 28, defended his side's matchday understudies Patrick Tuipulotu and Jerome Kaino, saying the pair were forced into too much defending in the first half.

But Crusaders teammate Scott Barrett had impressed after making his second-half debut, breaking the line to nab a five-pointer as his side chased the game.

The world champions would need to keep hold of the ball better to bounce back against Italy this Saturday in the Italian capital.

"There were a few little issues that we need to sort out so we're not on defence the whole time, but that's more of a team thing," Whitelock said.

"Getting our hands on it early allows us to play our game rather than defending for so long."

The 202cm, 82-cap Whitelock is unlikely to play in the Eternal City as he recovers from his ankle injury, but Retallick, standing marginally taller at 204cm, may play a role.

The Chiefs gun said his participation would depend on tests later this week.

"The headaches were the worst bit, they talk about feeling pressure in your head and it just feels like your head is tight," the 57-cap Retallick said.

"The contact side of it is pretty big obviously with that head knock, so I need to do a bit of that, get the confidence back."

Assistant coach Ian Foster said the 57-cap Retallick would be ushered back into the fold as soon as he proves his fitness.

His expertise at the set-piece would help the All Blacks nullify an Italian outfit packed with lineout and scrummaging talent.

"We just met him last night and he's come in and looks like he's in pretty good shape and has ticked the boxes," Foster said.

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