Rugby World Cup: All Blacks' belief in captain Sam Cane vindicated in monster display against Ireland

The All Blacks have reiterated their belief in captain Sam Cane, after his inspirational display in last weekend's Rugby World Cup quarter-final victory over Ireland.

After a difficult four years, battling injury woes and loss of form, Cane stood tallest and led from the front, as the All Blacks eliminated the world No.1 side and booked their own semi-final against Argentina on Saturday (NZ time).  

For Cane, whose place in the starting line-up, let alone role as captain, has been repeatedly questioned over the past four years, victory over Ireland was a statement.

Sam Cane tackles Ireland fullback Hugo Keenan.
Sam Cane tackles Ireland fullback Hugo Keenan. Photo credit: Getty Images

A year ago, Ireland flanker Peter O'Mahony labelled Cane a "s*** Richie McCaw", a taunt the All Blacks captain has dispelled emphatically.

While his place has been questioned from outside, his teammates have never doubted his role as leader.

"I've been very complimentary with my words towards our skip recently," said fullback Beauden Barrett. "You don't hear a lot of what he says to us in huddles and meetings.

"He's a leader you really want to follow, because of the way he puts his body on the line.

"The way he defends, tackles, he's fully committed. He's inspiring to us when he does those efforts, those actions on the field."

Halfback Aaron Smith ventures even further than Barrett. As one of the All Blacks' most-capped players, Smith is firmly ensconced in the team's leadership group, but even after more than a century of tests, Smith is still inspired by the way Cane goes about his work as skipper.  

"I just love the way, in our huddles and stuff, he smiles in the big moments," explained Smith. "When it's getting tough, as a leader, he just puts it out there about what's going on and what we need to do next.

"His Monday-to-Friday stuff with our leaders, pushing us and probing the right questions... his preparation is wordless, he just shows through his actions.

"He shows up every day wanting to be better. As a player and as a guy who's played with him a long time, you get inspired by that.

"Then you see what he did on the weekend, we're all just following him. As leaders, it's our job to help support him as well.

"He's an inspiring man."

Unsurprisingly, Cane will lead the All Blacks against Argentina on Saturday, as coach Ian Foster largely backs the same side that defeated Ireland.

Join Newshub from 8am Saturday for live updates of the All Blacks v Argentina Rugby World Cup semi-final