Sam Cane (Gallo)
London - The rapid elevation of 23-year-old
Sam Cane to captain New Zealand against Namibia at London's Olympic Stadium on
Thursday is the latest chapter in the All Blacks blueprint for the future.
He's not earmarked as the next first choice
captain after the talismanic Richie McCaw finally retires but he will be the
one after that in coach Steve Hansen's vision which requires constant forward
"It's a great opportunity to future
proof," Hansen said as he made wholesale changes to his starting line-up
for their second Pool C match against minnows Namibia.
The position of All Blacks captain ranks as
probably the second-most important role in rugby-obsessed New Zealand behind
the prime minister.
The skipper is expected to uphold the
team's phenomenal record as one of the most successful sports teams in the
world with a 76 percent winning rate from 532 Tests over more than 120 years.
The 12 changes to face Namibia, which meant
starting an almost second XV against the southern Africans, is Hansen's way of
making sure all of his squad get World Cup game time and he has cover for any
Kieran Read is the captain in waiting
behind McCaw and if the defending champions suffer another horror run of
injuries - they lost three flyhalves in the 2011 World Cup - then Cane is the
"If you look at the immediate future
Rico (McCaw) will come back and be the leader and then after that you've got
people like Kieran Read likely to be the next full-time guy. After that, you're
saying who's going to drop in.
"He's seen probably two of the best
leaders in world rugby pretty close up in Rich and Reado so he's had a great
Hansen, always keen to cover all
possibilities, has blooded 37 All Blacks in the past four years of whom 14 have
survived to make the World Cup.
Cane was one of the first he brought in as
a 20-year-old in 2012 to be the openside understudy to McCaw.
Covering for the All Blacks figurehead
meant most of his 25 Tests have been off the bench but off the park the All
Blacks immediately recognised him as holding leadership credentials.
Cane was promoted to the team leadership
group after only a year in the side, a rare honour for a player unable to
command a regular starting berth.
"I just think he's got the right
temperament and playing skills," said Hansen.
"In the heat of battle he's a
clear-headed young fellow and to me that's mental fortitude to be able to stay
on task when everything around you is imploding.
"You can't lead if you can't have the
ability under pressure to lead so you are looking for that."
Cane admitted to being surprised at being
tapped to replace McCaw as both flank and captain.
He knew Hansen intended big changes for the
Namibia match and was only hoping to get some game time after playing 16
minutes off the bench against Argentina.
"I was hoping, with the short
turnaround, it will be great to get a start and he (Hansen) said you'll be
starting and you'll also be captain. It took me back a little bit," Cane
"Over the last couple of years I've
grown comfortable in the leadership role and enjoy that part of it and enjoy
having a say in what goes on in the team and how to make it better."
The appointment of the 67th All Blacks
captain was applauded by the team who say there is immense respect for Cane who
now captains the Chiefs in Super rugby after joining the squad as a
Scrumhalf TJ Perenara, who also played
with Cane in New Zealand age-group sides, said it was no surprise: "I
always saw potential in him to be captain. in all the teams I've been in with
him he’s always had a leadership role."
Beauden Barrett, a member of the successful
2011 Junior World Championship side with Cane, described him as "a natural