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All Black Sam Cane reveals if World Cup loss influenced Test retirement

By Finn Morton
Sam Cane of New Zealand looks dejected as he walks past The Webb Ellis Cup with his runners up medal after defeat during the Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Outgoing All Blacks captain Sam Cane has revealed that last year’s agonising defeat in the Rugby World Cup final didn’t contribute to his decision to retire from the international game at the end of the year.


Cane, who has played 95 Tests, became the first man in World Cup final history to be sent off after being shown a red card midway through the first half against eventual champions South Africa at Stade de France.

New Zealand were valiant in their efforts to fight back against the South Africans but couldn’t quite get the job done. About 30 minutes after the full-time whistle, captain Cane said the red card was something he’ll “have to live with forever.”

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Almost seven months have passed and the All Blacks are preparing to usher in a new era under coach Scott Robertson. Cane will be available to contribute to any of New Zealand’s rugby success this year before retiring from Test matches.

Cane, 32, recently announced his shock decision to step away from the international game at the end of 2024 after signing a three-year deal in Japan with Tokyo Sungoliath. The Kiwi has since clarified that the emotional and mental toll of last year’s World Cup loss wasn’t a factor.

“I wouldn’t say it has… I don’t think so,” Cane told The Rock Morning Rumble radio show. “In my head, it hasn’t really come into the decision-making.

“No doubt last year took a lot out of me, emotionally and mentally probably.

“This break over here – although the last couple of months I’ve been rehabbing – they’ve been good, and I’m hugely motivated to come back and still be available for selection.


“Even though it’s my last year, I feel like I’ve still got a lot to offer the group, particularly knowing so many senior All Blacks have moved on.

“I’ve got a bit to add there, not just off the field, but hopefully on it.”


It was quite hard watching Cane find the words to summarise how he was feeling after last year’s World Cup decider. With both the weight and support of a nation resting on their shoulders, the All Blacks had fallen just short in their quest.

Cane’s red card was a major talking point after the biggest match in men’s rugby, and that continued for weeks, if not months. But when the All Blacks returned home, they weren’t met with disapproval or disappointment.


The All Blacks, led by captain Cane, had overcome some tough opposition on the road to the final, including Ireland in the quarter-finals and Argentina one week later. New Zealand commended their efforts while the players thought they’d “failed.”

“From years of what we’d experienced from the NZ public… a lot of that comes with the expectation and pressure of being an All Black, and a lot of that external pressure drives us as well, to be fair,” Cane explained.

“We were heartbroken, really gutted to be 1-2 points away from achieving something pretty special given the circumstances. Then to come home to that response, we were really proud – it certainly helped with the healing process.

“Even the response at the airport… we didn’t expect anyone to be there, but there were people with signs. It made us feel quite proud of what we’d been able to achieve, even though, in our minds, we had failed.”

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1 Comment
MattJH 64 days ago

Always proud of the effort, Sam. The All blacks never stop fighting, never just roll over.
He didn’t get anywhere near the respect he earned, but that’s due to results, not commitment to the cause.
Have fun dominating in Japan!

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Jon 3 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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