Sam Whitelock's switch to a more instinctive style of play has seen him become one of the world's best locks, according to New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen.
Whitelock is set to win his 100th cap when the All Blacks face Australia in their Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener in Sydney on Saturday.
The 29-year-old will become just the eighth Kiwi to reach the landmark, and the first man in his position to do so.
Having captained the team previously in the absence of Kieran Read, Whitelock has developed into a senior figure among the all-conquering All Blacks side, which won six out of six in last year's competition for a dominant defence of the title.
"When he first came in, he was a deep thinker," Hansen said of Whitelock in a media conference. "Everything had to be perfect and there wasn't a lot of flexibility in that thinking, so that probably inhibited him a little bit.
"He now trusts his own instincts and doesn't have to see it, think about then do it, he just does it instinctively and that's improved him immensely I think. He's always been a quality athlete.
"I think sometimes we forget that because the other guy is so good in Brodie [Retallick], and Sam, I think, in his own right is one of the world's best locks. He can carry, he can defend, he's good in the set-piece both in scrum and line-out.
"I remember when he played about 20 Test matches we sat down and he gave me the goal that he wanted to play 100 Test matches and he's achieved that. To do that, you've got to be playing well consistently to get 20.
"To be able to get 100 just tells you how quality of a player he is. So we're very proud of him and he's a big leader in our team now.
"He's obviously led the All Blacks in the last four Test matches while Reado was out and did a fantastic job of that. He's a great lieutenant to Reado as well now. He's only 29 so he should get a few more too. It should be quite exciting."
"Him leading by example rather than voice is the way he goes about things"— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) August 16, 2018
All Blacks teammates pay tribute to Sam Whitelock ahead of his 100th Test this weekend.
International team-mate TJ Perenara said recently that he "hated" playing against Whitelock at club level - a comment the man himself takes as a huge positive.
"I think that's the biggest compliment you can get," Whitelock said. "Our job as tight-forwards is to annoy [number] nines, 10s and 12s in and around that breakdown and ruck so it's good to know that I was getting to him when I've played against him.
"They [Australia] are the neighbours. They're across the ditch and it's the Bledisloe Cup. It's very very special for us at any stage playing for the All Blacks but playing against an Aussie gives us that extra little bit of motivation in there and I think you can feel that this week within the environment that the boys are up for it."
|Pogba v Mourinho: Who should stay and who should go at Manchester United?|
|Rahm better than I was at my first Ryder Cup, says McIlroy|
|Erdogan claims double standards in Ozil controversy|
|F1 Raceweek: Mercedes eye five in a row in Sochi – Russian GP in numbers|
|Rose: Stature doesn´t win Ryder Cup points|
|Sonny Bill Williams fit to face Pumas - Crotty|
|Exuberant Rahm expecting to be paired with calming influence|
|I´ve proved myself over and over - Garcia|
|Ocon negotiating with Williams for 2019|
|Kvitova´s Wuhan quest ended by Pavlyuchenkova|
|Hummels impressed by ´incredible´ Sanches|
|Brewers benefit from Pirates´ trade deadline acquisition of Archer|
|Barty upsets Kerber in Wuhan|
|England could still pick Cipriani despite training camp snub|
|Astros become first defending champions to reach 100 wins since 1990 Athletics|
|Wilder waiting for ´real offer´ to fight Joshua|
|LeBron focusing on patience after first Lakers practice|
|Pochettino expects Spurs in new stadium by Christmas|
|Inzaghi: With Ronaldo, Juve are best team in Europe|
|Some people talk too much – Icardi hits back at critics|
|Kovac, Robben praise Augsburg after draw|
|Angels star Ohtani to undergo Tommy John surgery|
|Simeone tips Gimenez to be fit for Madrid derby|
|Smith on his NBA Finals miscue: People make mistakes all the time|
|Rams CB Talib to have ankle surgery|
|Cousins ´feeling a lot better´, still unsure when he´ll return|
|I knew we´d be in trouble with Jones on penalties – Mourinho|
|Coyotes forward Galchenyuk expected to miss opener|
|Guardiola won´t compare Foden to Iniesta|
|Lampard shell-shocked as Derby win at Old Trafford|
|Ryder Cup 2018: USA celebrities take the honours|
|Manchester United´s torrid penalty shoot-out run continues against Derby|
|Guardiola: Foden already a great, great player|
|Atletico Madrid 3 Huesca 0: Rojiblancos cruise ahead of Madrid derby|
|EFL Cup: Lampard dumps out Mourinho, Burnley lose at Burton Albion|
|Mourinho denies Pogba row despite stripping midfielder of vice-captaincy|
|Fabinho situation not complicated, insists Klopp|
|Manchester United 2 Derby County 2 (Derby win 8-7 on pens): Lampard heaps pressure on Mourinho|
|Afghanistan snatch tie after Shahzad pummels India|
|Inter 2 Fiorentina 1: D´Ambrosio maintains Nerazzurri revival|
|Oxford United 0 Manchester City 3: Foden stars as EFL Cup holders cruise into round four|
|Cousin takes Gabon post after Aubameyang rejection|
|Bayern Munich 1 Augsburg 1: Neuer error costs champions|
|Paris Saint-Germain must be a Champions League force to help Neymar - Baptista|
|Salgado warns of ´war´ in Spanish football|
|Cech deserves Arsenal place, says Seaman|
|Halep and Garcia among seeds to fall in Wuhan|
|F1 Raceweek: Mercedes taking no comfort in points advantage|
|Benitez charged by FA for referee comment relating to Zaha treatment|
|Cibulkova dumps out hampered Halep in Wuhan|
|Mourinho questions his players amid reports Pogba won´t captain United again|
|European Ryder Cup diary: Fleetwood´s hair delights Poulter|
|USA Ryder Cup diary: Tiger´s roaring reception, McEnroe´s bold prediction|
|Loans to be limited under new FIFA proposal|
|Prolific Nadolo signs new Montpellier contract|
|Modric? For us, Messi is the best – Valverde|
|Murray makes winning start in Shenzhen|
|Mickelson would cherish first victory on European soil|
|Hodge hoping pressure proves too much for South Africa|
|Woodward in show of support for under-fire Mourinho|
|Mickelson jokes he wants ´a shot a side´ from Tiger in Thanksgiving showdown|
|Reed: Captain America is a villain in Europe|
|Duminy to captain Proteas as Elgar replaces injured Amla|
|No Tottenham timeline for Lloris, Vorm returns|
|Woods ready for ´awesome environment´ on Ryder Cup opening hole|
|Tony Bellew determined to prove doubters wrong against Oleksandr Usyk|
|Tuchel explains why he likes Neymar at number 10|
|Manchester United smash revenue record but profits down|
|Furyk downplays Ryder Cup pairings talk, says Tuesday is about individuals|
|Rejuvenated Tiger out to improve poor Ryder Cup record|