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Sam Cane's ascension to the captaincy is a minor surprise

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‘Follow-me’ flanker Sam Cane named as new All Blacks captain

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, May 5 – Loose forward Sam Cane was named as the new captain of the All Blacks Tuesday, taking over from the retired Kieran Read as the three-time world champions look to forge a new era.

Cane, 28, already captains the Waikato Chiefs in Super Rugby and has been part of the All Blacks’ leadership group for several years.

But the 68-Test veteran’s selection as skipper comes as a minor surprise, with lock Sam Whitelock widely considered the frontrunner to replace Read.

Coach Ian Foster, installed after last year’s World Cup, described the hard-tackling Cane as a “follow-me” type of leader who also had a deep understanding of the game.

“There’s massive respect for Sam amongst the players and management, and he’s perfectly placed to lead the All Blacks into the future,” said Foster.

Cane, a World Cup winner with New Zealand in 2015, said he was looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s honestly just a massive honour and privilege, couldn’t wait to tell my parents honestly,” he said.

The All Blacks are rebuilding after a string of retirements following their semi-final exit at last year’s World Cup in Japan, including Foster’s predecessor as coach Steve Hansen.

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With rugby currently shut down because of COVID-19, Foster said promoting Cane would give him time to settle into the position.

“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.

Cane, who made his debut against Ireland in 2012, has acted as stand-in captain on three occasions previously.

It remains unclear when he will take the field wearing the skipper’s armband in a permanent capacity, with home Tests against Wales and Scotland in July almost certain to be cancelled because of the virus.

The Rugby Championship involving New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina is also in doubt, although there are hopes the All Blacks can salvage some Tests against Australia later this year.

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