Israel Dagg: All Blacks boss Scott Robertson ‘forced’ Sam Cane to retire

Colin Newboult
Former All Blacks captain Sam Cane alongside ex-back three player Israel Dagg.

Former All Blacks captain Sam Cane alongside ex-back three player Israel Dagg.

Ex-All Black Israel Dagg believes that Sam Cane was “forced” to retire from international rugby by head coach Scott Robertson.

The 32-year-old took over from Kieran Read as skipper following the conclusion of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and helped them to the final of the 2023 global tournament.

Cane was sent off in the showpiece event, however, as New Zealand succumbed 12-11 to the Springboks in France.

He then moved to Japan, initially on a short-term sabbatical, before announcing on Monday that he has signed a three-year deal at Suntory Sungoliath.

Available in 2024

The back-row will be eligible for the 2024 Test season, but he has confirmed that it will be his last year in international rugby.

Robertson was always likely to look for a new captain for the next four-year cycle but Cane’s announcement was rather sudden and Dagg felt that the new head coach played a role in the decision.

QUIZ: Can you name the ten most recent All Blacks captains?

“I’ve got a lot of time and respect for Sam Cane, played with him many times and I’ve never met a tougher bloke,” Dagg told SENZ Radio.

“A bloke that just fires into breakdowns, puts his body on the line week-in, week-out, and will go down as one of the greats for New Zealand.

“But there is something hanging over my shoulder here.

“I get a sense that this was forced. I get a sense that there was a shoulder tap from the one and only (Robertson), saying: ‘G’Day son, I think the writing is on the wall in terms of where you are seen in New Zealand rugby, Scott Barrett is going to take over the captaincy’.

“I think this was forced to be completely honest. They’ve been having conversations about it online, but the reality is he was shoulder tapped and told to make that next step and his next step is getting the Yen over in Japan.”

Chances of a call-up

If Dagg is correct, it will be fascinating to see whether Robertson names the flanker in his squad for the upcoming Test campaign.

The All Blacks take on England and Fiji in July before they begin the 2024 Rugby Championship against Argentina on August 10.

Cane is currently on the sidelines through injury but he should return in time to play a large part for New Zealand if required.

However, according to Robertson, who spoke on Tuesday, he is not guaranteed to be selected and add to his 95 caps.

“Like anything, it’s on form. He’s coming back from an injury, he’s got to perform to be involved with the All Blacks. He knows that,” the All Blacks boss said.

“He’s been involved with leadership meetings already. And he has still got that personality and leadership qualities.

“He knows what to say at the right time. So he’s been valuable. Look, as we know, if you’ve played 95 Test matches you have been around haven’t you? You know what it takes. He’s available this year if he performs.”

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