Sam Cane to lead All Blacks in Rugby World Cup clash with Namibia

Sam Cane to lead All Blacks in Rugby World Cup clash with Namibia

Openside Sam Cane has swapped roles with leading All Blacks No 7 Richie McCaw.

Openside Sam Cane will captain the All Blacks for the first time during their second Rugby World Cup pool match against Namibia at Olympic Park on Thursday.

In a surprise move All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has handed the leadership duties to a 23-year-old who has spent most of his test career playing second fiddle to Richie McCaw.

In Cane’s 26th test the roles will be reversed with McCaw on the bench and Cane becoming the 67th – and the fifth youngest man – to lead the All Blacks.

Hansen has overhauled the team that beat Argentina with wings Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea along with lock Sam Whitelock the only survivors in the starting XV that ran on to Wembley on Monday.

Colin Slade starts at fullback, Malakai Fekitoa and Sonny Bill Williams form a potentially explosive midfield and Hurricanes TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett are the halves.

In the pack, Victor Vito gets his chance to continue his good test form at No 8 in a rejigged loose trio including Liam Messam at blindside.

Luke Romano joins Whitelock in the second row, Charlie Faumuina gets much needed game time at tight head prop and hooker Codie Taylor and Ben Franks make up the front row.

Major changes to the squad were pre-planned with a short four day turnaround between the All Blacks first two matches, but Cane’s elevation was not signalled.

Sat behind probably the greatest All Black of all time, the Bay of Plenty flanker has started only 11 tests since he made his debut in 2012, but still been promoted into the team’s leadership group.

His elevation will be popular within the squad and is a deserved reward for his selfless test career to date.

Hansen said it was a “very special moment”.

“He’s in our leadership group, is hugely respected by everyone, is a fierce and fearless player and is someone who has the potential of being a long-term captain of the All Blacks in the future,” he said.

Most pundits had expected veteran hooker Keven Mealamu or senior loosie Messam to be handed the captaincy in McCaw’s absence for a match the All Blacks are expected to win easily.

Mealamu is part of a reserve contingent that with 660 test caps must be close to the most experienced bench in test history

“At the completion of this match, 30 of the 31 players in our squad will have experienced time in the middle of the park which will give us a good foundation base going forward and which was always part of our planning pre-tournament,” Hansen said. “It’s now their time to step up.”

The only player in the All Blacks World Cup squad yet to be named is wing Waisake Naholo, who is on schedule to play against Georgia in their next match on October 3 in Cardiff.

Though the All Blacks are expected to run up a cricket score against Namibia there is plenty to be gained at the famous 55,000 seat stadium in Stratford.

Hansen will be especially keen to see his wings Savea and Milner-Skudder given plenty of ball in open spaces and may also be keeping a close eye on the form of Williams after his barnstorming start at Wembley.

All Blacks: Colin Slade, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Malakai Fekitoa, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Sam Cane (captain), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Charlie Faumuina, Codie Taylor, Ben Franks. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Tony Woodcock, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ma’a Nonu, Ben Smith.

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