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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Sam Cane retained as All Black captain for Rugby Championship

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Wellington — Sam Cane has retained the captaincy in the All Blacks squad announced on Sunday for the Rugby Championship, which features five uncapped players.

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster said he had “total belief” that veteran flanker Cane was the right man to lead the side, after naming a 36-man squad that sent a clear message about his thinking for the Rugby World Cup.

There had been question marks over Cane’s leadership after the All Blacks slumped to defeat in four of their first six Tests last year, including a home series loss to Ireland and a first-ever defeat on home soil against Argentina.

A run of better results at the end of the season, when Cane was injured, left critics suggesting Sam Whitelock would be a better World Cup captain.

However, a fully fit Cane earned praise from Foster with his imposing form for the Chiefs, who have reached the Super Rugby Pacific final as top qualifiers.

“Sam has proven himself as a great leader of our team despite having had a disrupted couple of seasons leading into this one,” Foster said.

“We have total belief that he is the right man to lead us. It’s fantastic to see him back playing with a smile on his face.”

Foster has been guided by form in naming a squad whose first Test is against Argentina in Mendoza on July 9.

He has included 10 players each from the Chiefs and Crusaders, who will meet in next week’s Super Rugby final.

The five uncapped players are Chiefs winger Emoni Narawa, Crusaders midfield back Dallas McLeod, Hurricanes scrumhalf Cameron Roigard, Chiefs flanker Samipeni Finau and Crusaders prop Tamaiti Williams.

Uncapped Chiefs outside back Shaun Stevenson will assemble initially with the squad and serve as injury cover for Mark Telea.

A 10-strong group of players were listed as unavailable due to injury, including influential Crusaders trio David Havili, Ethan Blackadder and Joe Moody.

Among the more notable omissions are established All Blacks Jack Goodhue, Brad Weber, Akira Ioane and Asafo Aumua, who have been named in an All Blacks XV squad to play two matches in Japan in July.

“We are very excited about the group we have selected,” Foster said.

“There’s a nice blend of existing players but also some new players we feel have earned their opportunity to be named.

“The Rugby Championship is a vital piece in our preparation for the World Cup later in the year. It’s a key opportunity to get our game ready so we can enter the global tournament with confidence.”

All Blacks squad:

Backs: Will Jordan, Mark Telea, Emoni Narawa, Caleb Clarke, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Dallas McLeod, Rieko Ioane, Braydon Ennor, Anton Leinert-Brown, Jordie Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Aaron Smith, Finlay Christie, Cameron Roigard.

Forwards: Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (capt), Dalton Papali’i, Luke Jacobson, Samipeni Finau, Shannon Frizell, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Tupo Vaa’i, Josh Lord, Tyrel Lomax, Nepo Laulala, Fletcher Newell, Tamaiti Williams, Ethan de Groot, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Codie Taylor, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Dane Coles.


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