Error: undefined is not an object (evaluating 'e.cycleInterval') http://www.sportsflash.com.au/app/app.min.js?v=3.0:1:40159 invoke@http://www.sportsflash.com.au/js/all.min.js?v=3.0:8:33897 http://www.sportsflash.com.au/js/all.min.js?v=3.0:9:13451 d@http://www.sportsflash.com.au/js/all.min.js?v=3.0:8:83373 http://www.sportsflash.com.au/js/all.min.js?v=3.0:8:66264 http://www.sportsflash.com.au/js/all.min.js?v=3.0:9:51165 $eval@http://www.sportsflash.com.au/js/all.min.js?v=3.0:10:1141 $digest@http://www.sportsflash.com.au/js/all.min.js?v=3.0:9:89081 $apply@http://www.sportsflash.com.au/js/all.min.js?v=3.0:10:1442 l@http://www.sportsflash.com.au/js/all.min.js?v=3.0:9:30629 $@http://www.sportsflash.com.au/js/all.min.js?v=3.0:9:32404 onload@http://www.sportsflash.com.au/js/all.min.js?v=3.0:9:32880 undefined http://www.sportsflash.com.au/js/all.min.js?v=3.0:9 TypeError: undefined is not an object (evaluating 'e[t]') http://www.sportsflash.com.au/app/app.min.js?v=3.0:1 in o http://www.sportsflash.com.au/app/app.min.js?v=3.0:1 SportsFlash : Rugby: Whitelock eyes return to action in NZ after pandemic ends Japan stint
Rugby: Whitelock eyes return to action in NZ after pandemic ends Japan stint
Reuters 600px 600px
  • 22 Apr 20
  • RugbyUnion
  • 4
FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - New Zealand Training - The Lensbury, Teddington, Britain - November 8, 2018   New Zealand's Sam Whitelock during training    Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra 691px 444px FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - New Zealand Training - The Lensbury, Teddington, Britain - November 8, 2018 New Zealand's Sam Whitelock during training Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - All Blacks veteran Sam Whitelock hopes to return to rugby in New Zealand at some stage this year after the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to his stint in Japan's Top League.

The 115-test lock had planned to skip the Super Rugby season while completing a short-term contract with Robbie Deans's Panasonic Wild Knights but has returned home after Japan's domestic competition was cancelled last month.

Super Rugby, along with all competitions in New Zealand, has been suspended as part of measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, but if action resumes Whitelock hopes to play for Scott Robertson's Crusaders or the Canterbury provincial side.

“We are pretty gutted the Japan competition has been cancelled, we understand, but we were sitting pretty well on the table," the 31-year-old told New Zealand broadcaster Sky Sports.

"But we are back in New Zealand at the moment and we will make our way back to Christchurch once we are allowed to travel a bit further.

"We will head back there and hopefully meet back up with the Crusaders or Canterbury, whatever competition kicks off first."

As a board member of New Zealand's players union, Whitelock has been heavily involved in scenario planning with governing body New Zealand Rugby and local teams as to how a restart of the season might unfold.

The All Blacks international season is scheduled to start in July with two tests against Wales and one against Scotland but the matches are in doubt due to travel restrictions and border controls to contain the new coronavirus.

Players would also need a three to four week lead-in before any restart to get match-fit, Whitelock said.

"There are a number of calendars out there that we are debating. As players, we just have to be ready to go when we do get the information from the government saying we can get into it at this level," he added.

One of the proposals that has been floated is a North Island versus South Island match, a once regular annual fixture in New Zealand until the mid-1980s.

The last such match was held in Dunedin in 2012 to raise money for the financially troubled Otago rugby union. South won 32-24.

"For me personally, I’ve never played a North v South match and I’ve heard a few great stories about how it used to be the grudge match of the year," said Whitelock.

"We are looking at that and All Blacks trials if we can’t travel internationally."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)