The All Blacks will be without the services of two of New Zealand’s most influential players for the rest of 2022.
Captain Sam Cane has been ruled out of the remainder of the end-of-year tour after suffering an injury in a 38-31 win over Japan in Tokyo on Saturday.
His season is over after he fractured his cheek during the 38-31 victory and he will return home, along with veteran hooker Dane Coles, who suffered a calf injury during warm-ups for the Test.
The pair will be replaced by uncapped flanker Billy Harmon and hooker Asafo Aumua ahead of Tests in Europe against Wales, Scotland and England.
Coach Ian Foster told journalists in Tokyo on Sunday he had decided who the replacement captain would be, but was reluctant to reveal it.
“We’ve got an answer, but we’ve got about three different flights and players all left late last night or early this morning so I haven’t had a final conversation with the person,” Foster said.
“I’m just going to reserve that for a day, but it’s all sorted.”
The two likely captaincy candidates are No 8 Ardie Savea and lock Sam Whitelock, who have both led the All Blacks previously.
It ends a turbulent season for 30-year-old Cane, whose form and leadership have both been criticised during a mixed run of results that has included a home series loss to Ireland and defeats against South Africa and Argentina.
? SQUAD UPDATES | Unfortunately Sam Cane & Dane Coles will be returning to New Zealand after picking up injuries in last nights match. Sam – fractured cheekbone, Dane – calf.
Patrick Tuipulotu, Damian McKenzie, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck & Braydon Ennor will join the Allblacks XV. pic.twitter.com/DQhci7y0ng
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 30, 2022
It continues a disrupted start to New Zealand’s tour.
Brothers Beauden, Scott and Jordie Barrett joined the squad late in Japan after attending their grandmother’s funeral, while Whitelock and star winger Will Jordan remained at home with ear ailments.
Whitelock is a chance to be fit for Saturday’s Test against Wales in Cardiff, but Jordan’s recovery is likely to take longer.
Uncapped wing Mark Telea joined the squad midweek to cover Jordan and outside back Leicester Fainga’anuku, who returned home for personal reasons.
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