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Under fire: New Zealand captain Sam Cane

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All Blacks captain Cane returns fire at ‘brutal’ critics

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Nov 18 – All Blacks skipper Sam Cane has hit back at critics questioning his leadership in the wake of last weekend’s shock defeat by Argentina, accusing them of being ignorant about rugby.

Cane and New Zealand coach Ian Foster have taken most of the flak from irate All Black fans over the 25-15 defeat to Los Pumas, which followed a 24-22 loss to Australia a week earlier.

The gritty flanker, who became captain of the three-time world champions earlier this year, said he shared their frustration but “hateful, disrespectful” comments posted online were unhelpful.

“We’ve got amazing fans but we’ve also got some pretty brutal ones,” he told New Zealand’s Sky Sports in an interview aired late Tuesday.

“You’ve just got to remind yourself that they may like to think they know a lot about the game of rugby but in reality they don’t.”

New Zealand rugby followers are notoriously demanding about the All Blacks — who have a winning record of almost 80 percent — but Cane said he paid no heed to online critics.

“If I’m having my leadership questioned in public, the opinions that really matter to me are my teammates and the coaches I work with every single day,” the 28-year-old said.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence from them that we’re on the right track.”

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Cane also defended Foster’s coaching after some pundits called for him to be sacked and replaced with Crusaders’ mentor Scott Robertson following Argentina’s historic first victory over the All Blacks.

“He’s given us really clear focuses on where we need to get better, so it’s not like we’re bogged down and don’t have the answers,” he said.

But Cane conceded criticism had stung the coach, saying: “Foz is only human.”

Cane’s own assessment of the Argentina loss echoed the opinions of many critics as he admitted that the All Blacks lacked discipline and gave away to many defensive penalties, starving their vaunted backline of attacking opportunities.

He also said the pack had “tunnel vision” about engaging in a physical duel with their Argentine counterparts and the players needed to work on changing tactics when the initial match-day strategy was not working.

“That’s the challenge for us as a team and me as a leader… to recognise what the solution is and then get that message across and hopefully execute it,” he said.

The All Blacks’ final Tri Nations fixture is against Argentina in Newcastle on November 28.

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