All Blacks coach Foster has 'full faith' in Cane's captaincy return

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·3-min read
Returning captain - New Zealand's Sam Cane (AFP/Steven SAPHORE)
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Head coach Ian Foster said on Thursday he had "full faith" in Sam Cane after naming the flanker as New Zealand captain again for this weekend's Test at Italy.

Richie Mo'unga has been restored at fly-half after Beauden Barrett won his 100th cap in the All Blacks' 54-16 thrashing of Wales in Cardiff last weekend.

Openside flanker Cane missed the Wales game, having made his international return following shoulder and chest operations with 30 minutes off the bench in the recent rout of the United States in Washington.

Cane replaced Kieran Read as All Blacks skipper after the 2019 Rugby World Cup but has only worn the armband six times since then.

Other options to lead Foster's team were the injured Brodie Retallick, tour captain Sam Whitelock, who will be on the bench in Rome on Saturday, and the rested Ardie Savea.

"I've got a lot of faith in him (Cane) from a captaincy perspective," head coach Ian Foster said.

"We wanted to give Sam Whitelock a little bit less time on the field, Brodie's shoulder, whilst it's really good we didn't want to use him in this game and Ardie, he had a monstrous game last week and we really feel he needs a rest.

"The captaincy sits easily on Sam's shoulder," he added.

Cane will be partnered by Luke Jacobson and Hoskins Sotutu in the back row as New Zealand attempt to record their 15th straight win over Italy -- the teams' match at the 2019 World Cup in Japan was called off due to Typhoon Hagibis.

With Whitelock on the bench and Retallick out with a shoulder issue, lock Josh Lord will make his first Test start, the 20-year-old partnering 21-year-old Taranaki team-mate Tupou Vaa'i in the second row.

"Tupou is a quality footballer and we have seen more signs of that in the last two weeks, while Josh on his first tour has learnt things quickly and has been really clear-headed at training," Foster said.

With potentially gruelling encounters against Ireland and France rounding off New Zealand's tour of Europe, it was no surprise to see Foster ring the changes of what will be former All Blacks full-back Kieran Crowley's first Test as Italy coach.

Foster, looking ahead to the 2023 World Cup in France, added: "With this tour we have an objective of growing the opportunities and the depth in this group."

Mo'unga, however, has effectively been the All Blacks' first-choice fly-half since the start of 2019 but he missed the start of the end of year trip for the birth of his second child, with Barrett marking his landmark Test in Cardiff with a pair of intercept tries.

New Zealand (15-1)

Damian McKenzie; Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Quinn Tupaea, George Bridge; Richie Mo'unga, Brad Weber; Hoskins Sotutu, Sam Cane (capt), Luke Jacobson; Josh Lord, Tupou Vaa'i; Tyrel Lomax, Dane Coles, George Bower

Replacements: Asafo Aumua, Ethan de Groot, Ofa Tuungafasi, Sam Whitelock, Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie, David Havili, Jordie Barrett

Coach: Ian Foster (NZL)

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