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‘They can linger’: All Black Sam Cane opens up on ‘frustrating’ injury

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)

Less than an hour out from the All Blacks’ highly anticipated showdown with France in the World Cup opener last month, news broke that captain Sam Cane had been ruled out with a back injury.


Cane was left feeling “incredibly frustrated” as he watched on from the sidelines at Stade de France as Les Bleus handed the All Blacks their first-ever loss in a World Cup pool game.

Blindside flanker Shannon Frizell also missed the opener due to a niggly hamstring injury, which saw second-rower Tupou Vaa’i don the No. 6 jersey. The All Blacks were in the midst of an injury crisis.

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As the weeks continued to tick by at the sports showpiece event, there were some questions that remained unanswered about both Cane and Frizell. Fans wanted to see the star duo return.

Almost a month into the tournament, thousands of All Blacks fans got their wish as they watched Cane and Frizell enter the fray of World Cup rugby against Italy in Lyon.

Cane spoke with reporters the day after New Zealand’s stunning 96-17 win over the Azzurri, and opened up about the “frustrating” wait to return from the back injury.

“Incredibly frustrated. I’d been looking forward to that game for a long time,” Cane said on Saturday.


“Back troubles can kind of pop up out of nowhere sometimes and it can be quite frustrating. Sometimes they can come right quickly and other times they can linger and cause issues.

“Unfortunately for me, it was just lingering and as I would increase my training load it would flare up a little bit again. Never really badly but enough to be frustrating.”

Even the All Blacks were surprised by Friday night’s result. They needed to win, but the 79-point margin put the rugby world on notice ahead of a possible quarterfinal showdown with Ireland.

Wing Will Jordan scored the opening try of the night in just the fifth minute, and a hat-trick to halfback Aaron Smith inspired the New Zealanders to a commanding half-time lead.


By the time the full-time siren sounded at OL Stadium, the All Blacks had crossed for 14 tries against the Azzurri.

“There will absolutely be areas where we will pat ourselves on the back and we executed things well, but knowing our coaches, they will be looking through things with a fine-tooth comb and highlight things that we may have done or probably won’t get away with against better teams,” Cane said.

“I don’t really see this team right now getting ahead of ourselves based off one performance. It wasn’t very long ago we put in one against France that wasn’t quite good enough.

“I feel like we’re building nicely, we’re just excited that it’s only six days until we get another crack.”


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