Sam Cane is set to make his long-awaited rugby return after injury. Photo / Photosport
Sam Cane is hoping to make his long-awaited return this weekend with a rare appearance on the pitch, but he won’t immediately regain the All Blacks captain position when he joins the team for their tour of the north.
Cane hasn’t put on the boots since undergoing surgery to repair the pectoral injury he suffered while playing for the Chiefs in March. He was set to make his return to the NPC with Bay of Plenty, having trained with them in recent weeks, but with his home province on leave this weekend, Cane is considering a surprise Heartland Championship game to make his comeback instead.
Running for King Country against Whanganui in Taupo this weekend is the obvious team Cane needs to represent, but that situation was complicated when much of Waikato was plunged into Alert Level 3 after community cases. of Covid-19 have been found in East Hamilton and Raglan.
Former Chiefs hooker Hika Elliot is the last player selected in the Heartland Championship for the All Blacks after playing for Poverty Bay in 2014.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster is hoping Cane can get a hit this weekend before flying out next Thursday to meet the team in Washington DC, where the All Blacks begin their five-game north tour with a test against the United States. They then progress to play in Wales, Italy, Ireland and France.
“We are looking around to see if he might be available to play a Heartland rugby match,” Foster said on Monday. “I’m not sure what the latest news on this is, but he’s desperate to do so. We’ll see how the bureaucratic cogs work their way through this one.”
Sam Whitelock and Dane Coles, the latter absent since the second test against Fiji in July with calf strain, are due to play for Canterbury and Wellington on Friday night before joining Cane, the Highlanders drop striker Shannon Frizell and Chiefs, 20 years. Josh Lord on the plane to Washington DC.
Lord was called in as a team bolter to cover Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu, both of whom are returning home from the rugby championship for family reasons.
In Cane’s absence, Foster has used four All Blacks captains this season – Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick and Ardie Savea.
At least initially, Foster will allow Cane to re-establish himself in the squad before he regains the captain position, which will likely leave Whitelock and Savea sharing the role.
“For now, we’re going to go with the status quo,” Foster said. “The players we’re bringing are joining this group. Ardie will continue to lead this team in the short term. Once we’re in Washington and Wales and assess where the other guys are, we’ll let people know.
“It’s clear that we have some really good leaders on this team. Ardie has done a great job; Sam Whitelock has been exceptional at the start of the year. San Cane, we’ll probably let him back into the environment for those two. or the first three weeks. He needs to find his feet and gain confidence. We’ll juggle that as we go, but we have a clear plan.