All Blacks: Captain Sam Cane’s availability for Bledisloe II to be confirmed later in the week

Dylan Coetzee
Sam Cane NZ v SA Rugby Championship 2022 - PA.jpg

All Blacks forwards coach Jason Ryan said the team is still waiting on confirmation whether captain Sam Cane will be able to feature in the final round of the Rugby Championship.

The skipper was forced off the field in the Bledisloe I Test after a head knock but passed the late-night HIA (Head Injury Assessment), meaning there is a chance he could play this weekend, but the All Blacks will only have confirmation later in the week.

Sticking to protocol

Ryan said the team are taking the necessary protocols, and player welfare is of the utmost importance in a case like Cane’s.

“It’s World Rugby protocol and it’s a protocol for the All Blacks,” said Ryan. “We have got the utmost interests for our players so we’ll do everything we can to get that right and there’ll be no risks at all.”

Similarly will be the potential return of Shannon Frizell, who has returned to training, but the All Blacks can only confirm his availability during the week.

“Shannon’s obviously had that niggly rib which we knew about so he’s just got to get through Thursday and see how that pans out,” Ryan said.

New Zealand, however, can confirm the return of in-form star Ardie Savea who sat out last week to attend the birth of his child.

“Ardie’s come in fresh and selectable … He’s got a lot of mana in our group. He’s fresh here but he’s just had another baby so I’m sure there’s been a couple of sleepless nights.

“He’s great for us, he’s a real energy giver. We get a lot of energy off him in our group. Having that week off will definitely freshen him up and he’ll be sharp and ready to go.”

The forwards coach praised Scott Barrett as one of the key players in the pack after the Crusaders skipper has proved his worth both in the second-row and on the blindside flank.

“I’d say he’s probably our best performing All Black forward, to be honest. He’s been outstanding in every role, he’s a huge part of our forward pack. And he prepares accordingly and he’s playing some really good rugby.

“He’s been consistent and I think that’s followed on from his Super Rugby season and he’s hit the All Blacks running. He’s a pivotal part of the All Blacks team and our forward pack.”

Wallabies back-row was impressive

Ryan commended the Wallabies’ back-row after they put together a strong performance in Melbourne in a Test the Australians almost won.

“I thought Valetini was huge for them,” he said. “He’s played great Super Rugby as well and Pete Samu as well [impressed] as a ball-carrier.

“They’ve got athletes that can give you really good variation, their contact work and their leg drive in their carries, good variation around their lineout. Not really a surprise but definitely the breakdown becomes a big area and getting quick ball [is tough].”

The former Crusaders forwards coach believes his loose forwards did have their moments, but the combinations still need time to gel effectively.

“I think [the All Blacks back-row] had their moments – as the whole pack did,” Ryan said. “There was times where we had really good intensity in that area and times we could have been better.

“Like any combination, it takes a bit of time and [when] you get a bit of changes, you’ve got to find your rhythm early, especially in Test matches.”

The All Blacks host the Wallabies at Eden Park this weekend in the crucial final round of the Rugby Championship, where there is a race to the title with the New Zealanders only ahead of the Springboks by points difference as it stands.

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