Disruptions in the All Blacks camp have reached captaincy level after skipper Sam Cane suffered two cheekbone fractures in Saturday’s 38-31 win over Japan in Toyko.
Coach Ian Foster said he had made a replacement decision, but because of different flights to London for the next game against Wales, he had not been able to discuss that with the player to take on the role and would release the captain’s name once he had done that.
Billy Harmon from the All Blacks XV will replace Cane.
Hooker Dane Coles also will return home after he scratched from the game minutes before kick-off when a calf muscle tightened up. Asafo Aumua will replace him.
Back-up players from the All Blacks XV lock Patrick Tuipulotu and utility back Damian McKenzie will rejoin the All Blacks XV to play Ireland A, while Mark Telea will have another week with the All Blacks at least.
It was later announced Leicester Fainga’anuku was returning to the side in Wales after he left the team in Japan for family reasons.
Foster said it was disappointing to lose two of their leaders in Cane and Coles, especially after the first game, but it was another adjustment the All Blacks have had to keep making.
“It will creates a great opportunity for the likes of a Dalton Papali’i and he’s in good form. It’s the reality of rugby, you always want to get through your first couple of games injury free. It hasn’t worked out this way, and it doesn’t change the challenges coming up.”
Foster said the lineout did not function well against Japan, and opportunities were missed, while the transition defence looked slow to move and not connected.
“There are critical areas where I don’t think we were up to par, but it was also a pretty good Japan team we played against and particularly that transition defence is a strength for them. They feed off the scraps and did it well. We knew that was coming, and we weren’t quite quick enough.”
However, they had the win, and it was a good building block and would provide plenty to talk about in their Monday review. He thought there were timing issues that reflected the time out of playing the game and some execution errors.
He said he was confident they could get their lineout back to the strength it had been for the side this year, and it had been a little bit of an upper-cut to them in that area that they couldn’t impose their game.
“So much pressure, and points, now come from that facet of the game, especially when you get into the attacking 22m area, and to miss two or three lineouts in that space was disappointing and not something we seek to do.
“In the first half, especially at 21-3, it stopped us from pushing on, and we’ve got to get more efficient. We’ll roll up our sleeves and get in some good work.”
In relation to lock Brodie Retallick’s red card for dangerous play, Foster said they would enter into the judicial process by presenting a rugby case and see what unfolded. The hearing is likely to be on Tuesday.
Wales was a side that looked to have more ambition about how it wanted to play, he said.
Wales would be a different team from that they struck last year when the All Blacks caught them on the hop.
Playing at Millennium Stadium, they knew what to expect, he said. Wales would be physical, and looking to play at speed, while the All Blacks would want to go up a couple of cogs from their Japan effort.
Munster Confirm Three New Signings
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.
Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.
Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.
Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.
Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.
Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.
Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.
The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Key All Black announces sabbatical to play in Japan
All Blacks captain Sam Cane will take up a sabbatical option in his New Zealand Rugby (NZR) contract in 2024 to play a season for Suntory in Japan League One.
The 31-year-old, 95-Test loose forward will miss the 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season with the Chiefs, but will return to New Zealand in June to be available for selection to the All Blacks for the 2024 Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship campaign.
Cane, who is contracted to NZR through to the end of 2025, said he was looking forward to experiencing a new playing environment with Suntory and learning more about a new culture in Japan.
“When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time following the Rugby World Cup to try something new and also a great chance to continue to grow and learn in my rugby and life journey. I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs, but I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and the coaching group to have a successful 2024, and I’m really pleased to be able to return in time to put my best foot forward for selection in the All Blacks.”
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said:
“Sam’s decision to take a sabbatical in 2024 has our full support and we wish him and his family all the best for their time in Japan. There are very few players who have given as much as he has to the jerseys he’s worn in his career to date and it’s a mark of his commitment to the All Blacks that he will return and make himself available for the Test season.”
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan said:
“Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different. He is an exceptional player and influential leader who has been an integral part of the Gallagher Chiefs for many years. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they enjoy their time in Japan after a full-on year.”
Key All Black commits to Gallagher Chiefs until 2025
Dominant loose forward Luke Jacobson has extended his contract with the Gallagher Chiefs, Waikato and New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2025.
The 18-test All Black was a consistent starter for the Gallagher Chiefs this year and a key element of their outstanding DHL Super Rugby Pacific performances. He consequently went on to be named in the All Blacks squad to travel to France.
Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan is delighted to have Jacobson sticking around for another two seasons.
“Luke is an outstanding player; he’s a workhorse, a consistent performer and considered a real warrior within our group. Luke leads by example both on and off the field. He isnt one to waste words and prefers to let his actions speak for themself. In the absence of some senior players who have moved on, I have no doubt Luke will play an integral part providing the leadership and guidance our younger players will be looking for”.
Jacobson has impressed throughout his career, playing for the New Zealand U20s team twice and captaining them in his second season to win the 2017 U20 World Championship title. This aptitude for leadership has seen him pull on the Gallagher Chiefs captain’s armband on multiple occasions.
Waikato Rugby head coach Ross Filipo is excited about Luke extending his career with Waikato. “He is a great man and a great leader who continues to make huge contributions on and off the field and always represents the region with pride.”
Speaking on his signing Jacobson said: “I’m stoked to signing on with the Waikato, Chiefs and NZR for another two years. I love representing these teams and am very proud to be able to call myself a Waikato/Chiefs man and also and All black. I’m hungry to succeed with these teams and tick off a few unticked boxes.”
The 2024 Gallagher Chiefs squad will be named later this year ahead of assembling for pre-season training.