Sam Cane replaces Richie McCaw as All Blacks captain among 12 changes to New Zealand’s World Cup side to play Namibia at London’s Olympic Stadium on Thursday.
Cane will be the 67th player to captain the All Blacks in a Test and, at 23 years and eight months old, overtakes McCaw by two months as the fifth youngest skipper.
“It’s a great honour. It took me by surprise a little bit,” Cane said when the team for the All Blacks second Pool C match was named on Tuesday.
Cane, who made his Test debut against Ireland in 2012, has been McCaw’s understudy at openside flanker during his 25 Test career.
Wings Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea, along with No.8 Sam Whitelock are the only All Blacks to play Namibia who also started in their 26-16 victory over Argentina on Sunday.
Keven Mealamu and Wyatt Crockett will again take the field from the bench where they are joined by Kieran Read, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ma’a Nonu, Ben Smith and McCaw.
Either Read or backrower Victor Vito will provide lock cover with the All Blacks including only three middle-rowers in their World Cup squad and Brodie Retallick rested for the Namibia match.
“At the completion of this match, 30 of the 31 players in our squad will have experienced time in the middle of the park which will give us a good foundation base going forward,” coach Steve Hansen said.
“It’s now their time to step up.”
The only player not to get a run is Waisake Naholo who was always scheduled to join the playing line up in their third game against Georgia after recovering from a leg fracture.
The 29-year-old Read has been earmarked as the heir apparent captain when McCaw steps down, probably at the end of the World Cup, and Hansen said Cane is seen as a future leader.
“He’s in our leadership group, is hugely respected by everyone, is a fierce and fearless player and is someone who has the potential of being a long-term captain of the All Blacks in the future.”
All Blacks team to play Namibia:
Colin Slade, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Malakai Fekitoa, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Sam Cane (capt), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Charlie Faumuina, Codie Taylor, Ben Franks.
Res: Kevin Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Tony Woodcock, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ma’a Nonu, Ben Smith.