Whitelock may get call-up

All Blacks vice-captain vacancy an opportunity for senior players - Sam Whitelock.

Veteran All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock might be in line for a lift in leadership now the vice-captaincy role is vacant after Ben Smith started his sabbatical.

Whitelock, 28, who could play his 91st test if selected for Saturday night's test against Argentina in New Plymouth, impressed most observers with the way he handled the captaincy of the Crusaders through their Super Rugby triumph this season and appears the natural back-up to Kieran Read.     

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said they intended to formally give someone the vice-captaincy role but just when they did that would be in when it suits them.

While he did not come out and embrace wholeheartedly the idea about taking up the job at Monday's press conference but he certainly did not rule it out.

"I think with Bender [Smith] taking a break it's great for everyone else who is here because we need to demand more or ourselves," he said.

"That does not fall to one person, it falls to everyone, especially the guys who have been around a little longer than most. We have to pick up the slack that he has left because he has been great the whole time he has been here because he leads in his own way."    

There has been some speculation that Whitelock might be rested for the Argentina test given his workload and with South Africa just around the corner but he said on Monday he was more than happy to play.

"I just love playing so hopefully I'll be given that opportunity to get out there," he added. "I just love the challenge of playing week to week and hopefully putting some good performances together."

Whitelock felt the squad had learnt a lot from the way Australia was able to pressure them early and score a lot of points and they were collectively looking forward to improving a number of areas, including how they prepared for each and every test and having better individual plans.

He believed the All Blacks had only been able to find "patches of being very good" throughout 2017 but there was some improvement needed in a range of areas.

"There have also been patches we have not been happy with so it's about getting the consistent performance going throughout a whole game.

"It's definitely something we need to get better at and that's the challenge, to be able to do it consistently."

Photo by: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport. Caption: Sam Whitelock has been in top form thoughout the Rugby Championship.