All Blacks flanker Sam Cane says his confidence is at an all-time high, nearly a year after breaking his neck against the Springboks in Pretoria.
Cane sustained a small break in a vertebra on the lower-right side of his neck during New Zealand's 32-30 win over South Africa last October 6. He then endured a lengthy rehab process that included months in a neck brace.
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Cane eventually returned to the field in May and rapidly rebuilt his match fitness to make the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad.
The 27-year-old tries not to think about the painful memories of 12 months ago, but roommate Richie Mo'unga gave him a friendly reminder, as the team arrived n in Tokyo to prepare for their match against Namibia on Sunday.
Sunday's fixture will mark the one-year anniversary since the painful injury, and the last time Cane and Mo'unga roomed together was before that Springboks test in Pretoria.
"He [Mo'unga] goes, 'Last time we roomed together was this time last year, when you were injured'," said Cane. "I said, 'Why the hell do you say that? - it's in the past now'.
"I've had plenty of rugby under my belt since then, and I've got heaps of confidence in my neck and body.
"It was probably the most challenging time of my rugby career, but it helped me appreciate the people in my life who helped me get through it.
"It helped me appreciate how much I actually love rugby, and how much I missed it and couldn't wait to get back playing."
Cane added that he couldn't wait to get back out on the field, as he'd only seen 40 minutes of game time at the World Cup.
The 27-year-old started for the All Blacks in their 23-13 win over South Africa, but was unable to play in the second half, after he had breached the allocated period of time for a head injury assessment.
Cane then sat out Wednesday's 63-0 win over Canada, but he's expected to feature in the 23-man squad to face Namibia, which will be announced on Friday afternoon.
"I've only got 40 minutes under my belt, so I'm pretty keen to get back out on the field."
The All Blacks faced Namibia at the last Rugby World Cup and that match marked Cane's first test as captain. New Zealand won 58-14 in London.
Cane has since captained the All Blacks two more times, and he considers himself "older and wiser" since that special day.
"I was a 23-year-old, with about 30 test caps to my name," he said. "Four years on, four years older, I'm a lot more comfortable in myself and my playing ability.
"I got handed a leadership role that day, which was a real shock, but four years on, I'm a lot more comfortable in my own leadership style."
Cane will bring up his 65th test cap, if he plays Namibia on Sunday.
Join us at 10:45pm Friday for live updates of the South Africa v Italy Rugby World Cup clash.