Sam Cane has been named captain of the All Blacks in a surprise announcement from new coach Ian Foster. Chiefs flanker Cane, 28, will replace Kieran Read, who retired from Tests after New Zealand placed third at last year’s World Cup.
It is the first significant act from new coach Foster, who had given no indication that he was considering his leadership options, particularly with the coronavirus pandemic having halted the sport and leaving a question mark over when the All Blacks will play again.
The appointment was also a mild surprise, with experienced lock Sam Whitelock having been considered a strong contender as skipper.
However, Foster has plumped for the tough 68-Test openside specialist, who has led his country three times previously.
Cane made his All Blacks debut in 2012 and was captain against Namibia at the World Cup three years later, becoming the fifth-youngest captain of the 67 men who have held the role.
Cane, who began his Test career primarily as a backup to former skipper and all-time great Richie McCaw, felt he had grown into a leadership role.
“As I’ve spent more time in the All Blacks and grown as a player, I’ve become a lot more comfortable being a leader in the team,” he said.
“While we don’t know yet what the rest of the year looks like for the All Blacks, I’m looking forward to catching up with the coaches and other senior players as we firm up our plans.”
He helped the Chiefs win successive Super Rugby titles in 2012-13 and became their co-captain for four seasons before taking sole charge this year.
Cane’s career was left teetering when he fractured his neck during a Test against South Africa in Pretoria in 2018 but he recovered sufficiently to return last year and contest a second World Cup.
Foster said while the All Blacks’ plans for 2020 were still to be clarified, there was already an important role for Cane to fulfil.
“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,” Foster said.
“Sam is a ‘follow me’ type of leader and a very good thinker in the game. He has a natural ability to connect with everyone in the team and is straightforward and direct when he needs to be.”