Ardie Savea & Scott Barrett frontrunners for All Blacks Captain

Publish Date
Tuesday, 14 May 2024, 4:34PM

By Liam Napier

Scott Robertson has indicated he’s told the next All Blacks captain of his incoming status. Still, he won’t confirm the anointed leader until unveiling his first national squad following the Super Rugby final.

Scott Barrett and Ardie Savea are the leading contenders to grasp the captaincy role after Sam Cane announced he is stepping aside on Monday.

“There’s been conversations and discussions that have been had with players,” Robertson said. “That’s all I can say. It will be announced when we name the team.”

The qualities Robertson is seeking in the All Blacks captain include: “Someone the players will follow. Lead on the field. They have to start. They have to be world-class in their position and someone the players respect.”

Robertson said Cane informed him and forwards coach Jason Ryan of his intention to take up a three-year contract with Japanese club Suntory before the All Blacks captaincy was discussed.

“It was really emotional for him. He was home at that stage. He Facetimed myself and Jason Ryan and talked us through it. It was really personable. He wanted to make sure he looked us in the eyes and told us what he was thinking.

“By the end of the conversation, the offer he had got was the right thing for him and his family. We’re pleased with the outcome for him.”

After months of speculation, Robertson revealed Cane won’t be available for All Blacks selection until August due to an ongoing back injury. Cane will, therefore, miss the All Blacks’ three tests against England and Fiji in July, with Blues openside Dalton Papali’i expected to assume the No 7 jersey.

Cane’s back injury has been shrouded in secrecy since he last played for Suntory on January 20. After Cane announced he would retire from the test arena at the end of the year, Robertson said he joins injured Crusaders fullback Will Jordan in targeting a return for the Rugby Championship that starts on August 10.

“Currently all going well, Sam should be available around the Argentina tests,” Robertson said. “He’s progressing really well. I’ve been in contact with him since he’s been back in Japan. We sent a physio up there. We’re monitoring him.”

Robertson did not guarantee Cane would be selected for the All Blacks again.

“It’s like anything, it’s on form. He’s coming back from an injury. He’s got to perform to be involved with the All Blacks. He knows that. He’s been involved with leadership meetings already. He’s still got those qualities. He knows what to say at the right time. When you play 95 tests, you’ve been around, you know what it takes. He’s available this year. If he performs, it’s up to me to pick him.

“We’ve got some depth at seven when they’re all fit. We’ve had that conversation with Sam. We’re trying to find a game of footy so he can play to get back in some form.”

Despite Cane’s absence from the 32-man squad named on June 24, Robertson suggested the loose forwards would be the toughest area to select.

In-form Blues No 8 Hoskins Sotutu is demanding a recall after missing selection last year while Hurricanes prospects Peter Lakai and Brayden Iose are among those pressing their cases to join incumbents Savea, Papali’i, Luke Jacobson and Ethan Blackadder.

“There’s a really good fist of loose forwards - young ones and guys who have been around for a long time so there’s going to be some tough calls in that area,” Robertson said.

As always, Robertson is attempting to strike the balance between form and proven ability at the elite level. In some instances, the final three rounds of the Super Rugby Pacific regular season and playoffs will help sway decisions.

“There’s a little bit of Super Rugby form but we’ve got a lot of established All Blacks that are coming back from the World Cup. You spend a lot of your time on the 20 per cent of the players that haven’t been All Blacks, or have been All Blacks before, and how they are executing,” Robertson said.

“Some of the local derbies are a great opportunity to see what those players are like under pressure and their traits. We’ll use all these games right to the end to make sure we make the right decisions for the announcement.”

Robertson was reluctant to discuss New Zealand Rugby’s attempts to lure Richie Mo’unga home from Japan - possibly as early as next year - but was slightly more forthcoming on Shannon Frizell, who remains under contract with Toshiba next year.

“My job is to get the best players for the All Blacks. I’m not going to talk on individual players but my role is to get the best All Blacks out on the field for our country.

“Shannon is still at his peak and can play great rugby. We’re monitoring him from afar and we would love to have him back, of course we would. It gives us depth in the loose forwards but it’s a ‘we will see’.”

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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