Sam Whitelock has opened up about being overlooked for the All Blacks captaincy for Sam Cane, saying he would've embraced the role but will offer his full support to the new skipper.
Whitelock told media this afternoon in an online conference he appreciates the tough task in selecting a captain for the side.
"I would have loved to have had the opportunity but at the same time, I know so much goes into it," Whitelock said.
"I know you don't need the captain's armband to help people out and make a difference and Sam is going to need all the help and support he can get from everyone that's in the All Blacks environment and I'm keen to help him out where I can.
"And there's definitely some upsides to me worrying about myself playing well first and then helping him out if he needs it."
The All Blacks captaincy was up for grabs heading into this season after former captain Kiean Read retired from international rugby at the end of last year's unsuccessful Rugby World Cup campaign.
Pundits had Whitelock, who has signed on with New Zealand Rugby until 2023, as a top contender for the job but new All Blacks coach Ian Foster opted for Cane.
Whitelock said Foster gave him notice before announcing his choice.
"Fozzy rang me a couple of days before the announcement to give me a heads-up so I was very thankful to get that heads-up before it was released.
"It allowed me just to work out how I can help Sam and Fozzy out and work out what's the best step for me going forward."
Whitelock was set to take a break from the 2020 Super Rugby season as part of the four-year contract he signed with NZR last year but the Covid-19 pandemic cut his stint in Japanese Rugby short.
Instead, Whitelock has been welcomed back into the Crusaders set-up for the domestic competition which kicks off in June.