All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has revealed that Chiefs loose forward Sam Cane will take over as the long-term replacement for Kieran Read as New Zealand captain. The 28-year-old Cane, who made his international debut in the first match of Steve Hansen’s reign back in 2012, has accumulated 68 caps for the national side and first took over the match-day captaincy against Namibia at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
New head coach Foster shares a special relationship with Cane, whom he previously coached at the Chiefs before Foster was elevated into the All Blacks coaching ranks. Foster gave Cane his first start in a Chiefs jersey in 2011, the same year that the openside flanker earned a gold medal with the New Zealand Under 20 side at the World Championships.
Cane has been a key member of the All Blacks leadership group for a number of years and was viewed as one of the prime contenders to take over from former skipper Read, who relocated to Japan this year to represent the Kobelco Steelers. Alongside Cane, the likes of Beauden Barrett and Sam Whitelock were also considered possible replacements. Both men have captained the All Blacks in recent seasons in Read’s absence – sometimes even with Cane in the team.
Neither Barrett nor Whitelock has played any Super Rugby this year with Whitelock spending a season in Japan and Barrett spending the first months of the season on sabbatical before he was due to turn out for his new Super Rugby side, the Blues.
Tellingly, Cane’s appointment suggests that the openside flanker will be reinstated as a first-choice starter for the All Blacks after he was relegated to the bench for New Zealand’s semi-final showdown with England at last year’s World Cup – although that may well have just been a ‘horses for courses’ approach from the selectors.
“Sam is an experienced All Black with eight years in the team now and is a ‘follow me’ type of leader and a very good thinker in the game,” Foster said of his new captain. “He has a natural ability to connect with everyone in the team and is straightforward and direct when he needs to be.
“There’s massive respect for Sam amongst the players and management, and he’s perfectly placed to lead the All Blacks into the future. We wanted to confirm Sam now because he’ll play a key role helping us plan for whatever the future looks like and will be working behind the scenes with the other leaders.”
After earning his first start for the All Blacks against Ireland in 2012, Cane spent his formative All Blacks years backing up captain Richie McCaw. McCaw’s retirement after the successful 2015 World Cup campaign presented Cane with the opportunity for considerably more game time – though he then had to compete with the arrival of Ardie Savea.
After Cane first captained the All Blacks in 2015, he was given the opportunity twice more, in 2016 and 2019. His 2018 season was prematurely ended by a neck fracture that he suffered in a Rugby Championship win against the Springboks but the former Rotorua Boys student returned from the brink to make eight appearances in 2019.
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