All Blacks: Sam Cane and Dane Coles out with injury after narrow Japan win

Dylan Coetzee
All Blacks: Split image of Sam Cane and Dane Coles

The All Blacks have suffered a double injury blow to captain Sam Cane and veteran Dane Coles in their narrow 38-31 win over Japan on Saturday in Tokyo.

Cane fractured his cheekbone during the thrilling clash, while Coles pulled up with a calf injury during the warm-up, and the pair will be out for the remainder of the northern hemisphere tour.

Uncapped star Billy Harmon and hooker Asafo Aumua have been called up as replacements for the experienced pair.

Decision set to be made on skipper

Head coach Ian Foster held back on his answer for who will take over the captaincy from Cane and said an announcement would be made in due course.

“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 All Blacks were made to work in Tokyo as Japan played superbly and had the chance to attack from deep in search of a winning try. However, it was not to be as they conceded a late penalty that fly-half Richie Mo’unga kicked over for three points.

Mo’unga believes there was nothing wrong with the physicality of his side but admits the team could improve from a mental standpoint.

“I wouldn’t say physically fatigued but mentally, (we were) a step behind,” Mo’unga said.

“We weren’t sharp in our thought process and getting to solutions quick, maybe our minds were a bit cluttered but as we see when we come out and we put a few phases together, we look really strong but the Japanese were really good at stopping that and stopping that momentum.

“They wanted to prove something and I thought they did tonight, they’re a classy side and for us, we were a bit slow on solutions and learning.

“A lot of combinations out there that haven’t played together at all, at Super Rugby or test match footy so we’ll take the learnings.”

Scrappy performance

The Tokyo Test saw the welcome return of midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown who admits the game was a scrappy one, including his cameo off the bench.

“A little bit scrappy, myself included,” Lienert-Brown said.

“Every time you put the All Blacks jersey on, you know the standard you’ve got to play to.

“For me personally and the team as well, there’s a bit to work on.”

Flank Dalton Papali’i echoed his teammate’s sentiment but was still pleased to get a win against a tricky Japan side.

“We’ve got to be honest with ourselves, a bit of a scrappy game,” Papali’i said.

“A win’s a win and Japan have gotten better each year.

“They’re a powerhouse team, giant killers, so we knew it was going to be a tough match, we’re just lucky we came out on top.

“It’s good to get some time on the feet out there with the boys and start the tour off well, with a win.”

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