Cane lacking sharpness, ready to wait for All Blacks start

New Zealand's TJ Perenara runs with teammate Sam Cane, left, to score his team's final try during the rugby international between the All Blacks and the USA Eagles at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — All Blacks captain Sam Cane isn’t expected to make the starting lineup on New Zealand’s end-of-season rugby tour at least until the match against Italy in Rome on Nov. 6.

Cane has been out for nearly six months because of a pectoral injury and made his return for New Zealand as a replacement in the 104-14 win over the United States on Saturday.

The All Blacks landed in Britain on Monday ahead of the month-long northern hemisphere leg of the tour — featuring games against Wales, Italy, France and Ireland — and Cane said he wasn’t yet sharp enough to be playing test rugby.

“There’s no expectations or pressure internally, or from the coaches’ point of view, to take off immediately from where I left off,” said Cane, speaking Tuesday ahead of the match against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

“I’m loving being back in the environment, the high standards, the training level and the intensity, getting help and training with such quality players and coaches. I’m used to that level, I know what’s required, it’s just about making sure I can get my body back to doing it as quick as possible.”

New Zealand isn’t short of leaders in Cane’s absence, with four players — locks Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, scrumhalf Aaron Smith and back-row forward Ardie Savea — captaining the team in 2021.

Alex Cuthbert has been recalled by Wales for the first time since 2017 ahead of the match against the All Blacks.

The winger has been overlooked by his country for the past three seasons while playing his club rugby in England with Exeter, but he is now back in Wales with the Ospreys.

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