Who will Scott Robertson pick to take over the All Blacks captaincy from retiring Sam Cane?

Dylan Coetzee
Split with All Blacks Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea and Patrick Tuipulotu.

Split with All Blacks Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea and Patrick Tuipulotu.

Veteran All Black Sam Cane announced he will be retiring from Test rugby at the end of the 2024 season opening the door for a new leader in a new era for the team.

New head coach Scott Robertson will have to consider a new leader and we have taken a look at his options in order of probability.

Front runners

There are two obvious candidates for the role in Ardie Savea and Scott Barrett who are both vastly experienced as players and leaders.

Savea is the reigning World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year and will definitely start for the All Blacks upon his return from a sabbatical in Japan. The back-row has led the side on several occasions and would be an easy choice for Robertson. Regardless of whether Savea gets the armband or not, he will certainly be one of the team’s core leaders.

Barrett also emerges as an excellent option especially considering that the bruising forward was Robertson’s captain at the Crusaders for the last four years. This relationship between the pair could be crucial in the coach’s decision in who leads the side but like Savea, Barrett will be at the centre of the leadership group even if not the official team captain.

In with a shout

Another Barrett is in the mix but this time it is the old fox Beauden who, like Savea, will return from a sabbatical in Japan before the mid-year Tests. The skilful playmaker has led New Zealand in a non-cap game against Barbarians several years ago and his experience of over 100 Test caps speaks volumes for his value. He may not be a leading candidate for the armband but he will be providing crucial leadership within the backline set-up for the All Blacks.

The return of Patrick Tuipulotu could not come at a better time for New Zealand after the departure of legendary lock pair Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock. The Blues skipper has really put his hand up this season and would be a valuable addition both as a player and a leader. To come straight in and captain the All Blacks would be a massive ask but his experience could be extremely useful for developing locks like Tupou Vaa’i to rub shoulders with.

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Outside chance

Veteran hooker Codie Taylor returned with a bang for the Crusaders recently and could well be in the mix for the All Blacks. His experience and nous automatically make him a leader in the set-up and Taylor is also a player Robertson knows well. However, the coach will likely look past a player who will be in his mid-30s come the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

Next up is Dalton Papali’i who has taken on the Blues captaincy when Tuipulotu is not available. The role is not foreign to the flank who led the Blues to a final in 2022 and with Cane finally making way from the seven jersey there could be a window for him. However, with Hoskins Sotutu in such good form, there could be the temptation to play Savea at seven. Ultimately Papali’i leadership is going to be useful within the squad set-up but fighting for a starting role is primary.

Luke Jacobson is in a very similar position to Papali’i, especially with regard to fighting for a starting role. Of course, the Chief is vastly experienced and is no stranger to captaincy but given the uncertainty of his position, he is an outsider.

READ MORE: All Blacks captain Sam Cane to retire from Test rugby in ‘best decision’ for his family