All Blacks captain Cane to retire from international rugby

rugby13 May 2024 03:46| © AFP
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Sam Cane © Gallo Images

New Zealand captain Sam Cane will retire from test rugby at the end of 2024, the side said Monday, calling time on a World Cup winning 12-year international career.

"Having played 95 tests – 27 as captain – the 32-year-old has decided to focus on spending more time with family and sign a long-term contract with Suntory Goliath in Tokyo," New Zealand Rugby said in a statement.

His retirement is not a complete surprise.

The All Blacks haven't played since they were defeated in the Rugby World Cup final by South Africa last year and Cane was already on a sabbatical in Japan.

Cane said the prospect of a three-year deal with the high-spending Tokyo club was too good to pass up.

"I had to weigh up everything and, in the end, with a young family, it seemed like the best decision to help set up our future," he said.

"It was a very hard one because I love the teams that I represent here in New Zealand."

Cane won the World Cup with New Zealand in 2015 and has twice been part of Super Rugby championship-winning sides with the Chiefs.

But his experience since taking over as All Blacks captain from Kieran Read in 2020 was not always smooth.

Cane at times struggled with his own form and was sent off during last year's Rugby World Cup final in the 28th minute.

With talents such as of Ardie Savea and Dalton Papalii snapping at his heels, there had been calls for him to be dropped from the side.

During his tenure New Zealand lost a first test series at home to Ireland in 2022 and a few weeks later suffered a shock defeat to Argentina in Christchurch.

"I'm really grateful for the time that I had to wear the captain's armband. It was a huge honour and privilege – a lot of lessons out of it and growth," Cane said.

Recently arrived All Blacks coach Scott Robertson said the pair had discussed Cane's decision to take up the new contract in Japan "at length".

"I fully understand the reasons behind his decision and support him," Robertson said.

"The position he plays asks a lot of you mentally and physically – both of those things ramp up when you are captain.

"So to do what he's done over such a long period is an incredible feat. I fully respect him taking this opportunity."

Cane will return to New Zealand at the end of the current Japanese club season and will be eligible to be selected for the All Blacks for the rest of 2024, but will no longer be captain.

"It's part of the natural process that happens in rugby," Cane said.

"I had my time as captain and it was a huge honour and privilege."