Flanker Sam Cane says the impact of losing a glut of All Blacks greats won’t be felt until the heat goes on a tight Test.
Cane is poised to replace retired captain Richie McCaw as New Zealand’s starting openside flanker in the three-Test series against Wales in June.
The 24-year-old is also part of a much-changed leadership following the departure of six players who tallied more than 700 Test caps between them.
Cane says there was no noticeable difference to the atmosphere when the freshly-minted All Blacks squad gathered in Auckland for a short camp this week.
However, he reckons the impact of losing McCaw, Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu and a number of other established players in the wake of their World Cup triumph will be felt at some stage.
“Once we build into the week and start preparing for a Test week, we might notice that a little bit more,” Cane told reporters.
“But it’s a great opportunity for other leaders and other players to step up and fill those shoes in their own way.”
Cane, who was skipper in the World Cup pool win over Namibia last September, will be a key leadership figure along with promoted skipper Kieran Read and new vice-captain Ben Smith.
He believes a true measure of the All Blacks’ mettle will come when the chips are down late in a Test.
New Zealand’s trademark in recent seasons has been prevailing in tight encounters.
“Ultimately, when the pressure comes on, it’s the timing, the release of the pass, the smallest things that need to be executed really well.”
Cane himself is familiar with closing out Tests, having made 18 of his 31 appearances off the reserves bench.