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All Blacks captain Sam Cane to retire from Test rugby at the end of 2024

By Finn Morton
Sam Cane of New Zealand salutes the supporters following the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between New Zealand (All Blacks) and Italy at Groupama Stadium on September 29, 2023 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

World Cup winning All Black Sam Cane will step away from the Test rugby at the end of 2024 after inking a long-term deal in Japan, as confirmed by New Zealand Rugby on Monday afternoon.


Cane, who has played 95 Test matches since making his debut against Brian O’Driscoll’s Ireland in 2012, will relocate to Japan in 2025 after signing a three-year deal with Suntory Goliath.

The 32-year-old is currently on sabbatical with the Japan Rugby League One side but has decided to recommit for the foreseeable future after requesting an early release from his deal with New Zealand Rugby.

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Last year’s All Blacks captain will still be eligible to represent New Zealand on the international stage this year, with Cane a chance of becoming the team’s 13th Test centurion.

But this will be his final year in black.


With a second child on the way, Cane has explained that putting his family first was the main reason why he’s decided to call time on his decorated international career.

“A good opportunity came my with Suntory Sungoliath willing to offer me a three-year contract,” Cane said in a statement. “It was something we had to seriously consider as a family due to the stage I am at in my career. It will see me through to 2027 when I’ll have my 35th birthday.

“I’ve always thought that if I can play professional rugby for that length of time I’d be doing really well considering the position I play and the age that I started playing professionally.

“I had to weigh up everything and, in the end, with a young family, it seemed like the best decision to help set up our future. It was a very hard one because I love the teams that I represent here in New Zealand.


“We obviously love this country, we love being around friends and family but we ultimately made the decision to sign with Suntory, which we’re really excited about. We have enjoyed our first year there and we just thought it was the best thing for our young family.”

Cane led the All Blacks into battle at last year’s Rugby World Cup in France, but it seems that the agonising defeat to South Africa in the final may be his final Test match as captain.

While it remains unclear as to who will lead the All Blacks under new coach Scott Robertson, Cane has offered to support New Zealand’s new captain as “part of the natural process that happens in rugby.”

“I had my time as captain and it was a huge honour and privilege,” he added.

“If I’m fortunate enough to be selected in the All Blacks this year then I’ll still be myself. I love that team and I just want to see the All Blacks do well, so if part of my role is contributing leadership off the field or on the field, I’ll be happy to support the new captain as best as I can do to help make it a smooth transition for the All Blacks.

“I’m really grateful for the time that I had to wear the captain’s armband. It was a huge honour and privilege – a lot of lessons out of it and growth.”

New All Blacks coach Robertson, who famously led the Crusaders to seven Super Rugby titles in as many years, has spoken with Cane about his decision to retire from international rugby.

“After discussing this at length with Sam, I fully understand the reasons behind his decision and support him,” coach Scott Robertson explained.

“The position he plays asks a lot of you mentally and physically – both of those ramp up when you are captain. So, to do what he’s done over such a long period is an incredible feat. I fully respect him taking this opportunity.”


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Eric 63 days ago

Dalton for skipper?

Nickers 63 days ago

He knows his body is not up to the work load of international rugby. The fact that Cane only played only 27 of the 46 games the ABs played while he was officially captain is a telling statistic. And that excludes the time he had out with neck injury.

He was never able to put a long enough body of work together to get back to his best without a new injury setting him back. He knows better than anyone that the problem will get worse, not better, given the same workload. Correct decision and good luck to him.

JD Kiwi 63 days ago

Best wishes to a true warrior who gave everything for his team and country. He was no McCaw but the closest we've had in recent years in terms putting his head into dark places, leading the defensive line and securing the attacking breakdown - the core roles of a modern open side. If only he could have played more tests under Foster and Plumtree with blindsides who fulfilled their core roles.

2027 was always going to be a long shot. Hopefully Papalii fulfils the promise of 2021 and late 2022 and/or Lakai turns out to be as good as he looks.

MattJH 63 days ago

Fair play to him. A lot of exciting talent coming up in the loose forward position, can’t wait to see the next generation.

John 64 days ago

Sam wants to focus on his family and learning how to tackle legally…what’s Japanese for ‘bend at the waist’?

Jacinda 64 days ago

Good Luck Sam, enjoy Japan.

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William 5 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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