Sam Cane won't be just be accruing frequent flyer miles on the All Blacks southern hemisphere odyssey after all - the apparent successor to holiday-bound All Black captain Richie McCaw has been upgraded to the reserves for a potentially Rugby Championship-clinching clash with Los Pumas in La Plata.
Until McCaw confirmed plans to take a six-month break after the All Blacks northern hemisphere tour ends at Twickenham on December 2, the two-test schedule against Argentina and South Africa was likely to be rugby's version of OE for the 20-year-old specialist open side.
McCaw's admission hours after arrival in Buenos Aires that he would utilise the sabbatical built into his NZRU contact to hopefully extend his career through to the 2015 World Cup has benefited Cane sooner than expected as All Black management utilise Estadio Ciudad de La Plata as a virtual testing ground for the promising Bay of Plenty and Chiefs flanker on Sunday (NZT).
Cane made his test debut against Ireland in Christchurch during the June international window and started the following weekend at Hamilton after Kieran Read was ruled out and McCaw slotted in at the tail of the scrum.
He has not previously featured in the match-day 22 during the inaugural Rugby Championship as the versatile Victor Vito and Liam Messam oscillated between the blindside flank and bench.
Vito started against Los Pumas in Wellington on September 8 but Messam regained the role against South Africa a week later and is now considered the preferred option as Japan-based World Cup winner Jerome Kaino's replacement.
It remains to be seen how Cane will be employed - barring injury to the starting loose trio - though with McCaw and Read regarded as practically irreplaceable the rookie will probably be destined for Messam's side of the scrum.
While Cane's promotion indicates a change of mindset among the All Black coaching panel the restoration of Daniel Carter and Aaron Smith to the starting line-up was predictable, although the world's leading first five-eighth still has to negotiate a rigorous training run tomorrow (NZT) before a 90th test cap is assured.
Encouragingly Carter had no issues with the calf strain that sidelined him since the Bledisloe Cup was retained at Eden Park last month when the All Blacks ramped up their preparations on Tuesday although he only participated in half of the session.
Providing Carter comeback occurs on schedule Aaron Cruden remains on the bench and the tour party's third choice pivot Beauden Barrett - a reserve during the 21-11 win over the Springboks in Dunedin - experiences one of international rugby's most vociferous atmospheres at close quarters in the stands.
Smith, denied a start in his seventh test for breaking a team curfew after the All Blacks beat Argentina in Wellington on September 8, replaces Piri Weepu at halfback in the only other change to the starting line-up that outlasted South Africa a week later while Ben Smith assumes the utility back role from Tamati Ellison.
The squad spent yesterday exploring the Argentine capital or relaxing in the team hotel but homework is on the agenda when they return to Colegio San Jorge, their practice facility on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Tidying up the clean out will be a focal point given the All Blacks were deficient in that area against an abrasive Springbok pack.
"Our clean out was very, very average against South Africa and we need a good clean out against this crowd," declared head coach Steve Hansen.
"It really starts with your ball carrier, he got to be able to stay up, hit a weak shoulder and have plenty of leg drive. Once he wins his battle, then the rest of them can do theirs.
"Against South Africa we were wasting too many men on one person. We have a policy on 'one man one bullet' and if you're wasting three or four bullets on one bloke you're running out of ammo."
All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.
Los Pumas: Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Gonzalo Camacho, Marcelo Bosch, Santiago Fernandez, Horacio Agulla, Juan Martin Hernandez, Martin Landajo, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (captain), Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Julio Farias Cabello, Patricio Albacete, Manuel Carizza, Juan Figallo, Eusebio Guinazu, Rodrigo Roncero. Reserves: Agustin Creevy, Marcos Ayerza, Tomas Vallejos, Tomas Leonardi, Nicolas Vergallo, Martin Rodriguez, Juan Imhoff.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Kick off: 12.10pm Sunday (NZT)
- © Fairfax NZ News
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