WELLINGTON, April 20 (Reuters) - New Zealand lock Sam Whitelock has spurned the chance to play overseas and re-signed with New Zealand Rugby until 2020 in a coup for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
Forming one of the world’s best second rows with Brodie Retallick, the 28-year-old will be a key plank in Hansen’s squad for the British and Irish Lions tour starting in June and will hope to play in a third World Cup at the 2019 tournament in Japan.
“When I considered whether my immediate playing future was here in New Zealand and Christchurch, I didn’t need to look far for the answer,” Whitelock said in a statement on Thursday.
“My wife Hannah and I have recently welcomed a new addition to our family, I am still genuinely excited to be playing rugby for these teams, and I feel like there is still plenty more to achieve.”
The 84-test Whitelock scored two tries in a dream debut against Ireland in New Plymouth in 2010 and last year overtook Ian Jones as the most capped All Black lock.
A twice World Cup winner, Whitelock played every game of the 2015 tournament in Britain and all but one of the matches in 2011 on home soil.
The Canterbury Crusaders captain will also remain with the Super Rugby side, who are currently leading the competition undefeated from seven matches, until 2020.
“On behalf of New Zealand Rugby, as well as all New Zealand rugby fans, I want to congratulate Sam and his wife Hannah on his decision,” Hansen said.
“Sam is also great contributor to our environment: he thinks a lot about the game ... leads very well within the group and has become a very, very important component in the All Blacks.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Frank Pingue