Rugby World Cup: Sam Cane to return as captain as All Blacks balance continuity, opportunity for Uruguay pool play finale

Sam Cane is likely to return as All Blacks captain for Friday's Rugby World Cup pool finale against Uruguay.

Coach Ian Foster will name his team on Tuesday night, seeking to balance continuity and opportunity before a potential quarter-final in less than a fortnight.

With an eye to what's to come, the All Blacks may opt to rest some key squad members ahead of the quarter-finals, while giving others a last chance to put themselves in the mix for knockout rugby.

Ardie Savea has captained the All Blacks in all three pool matches so far at this World Cup, but is in line for a rest after his high workload this year's tournament. 

As the All Blacks ramp up their preparation for a final pool stage hit out, excitement is high but so too are expectations, seeking consistency in performance after setting their benchmark against Italy.

Sam Cane.
Sam Cane. Photo credit: Getty Images

"The boys are really excited about the challenge ahead," said hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho. "But the key for us now is to back it up with a really good performance against Uruguay."

The team who'll get the chance to do that may have a different feel to it.

"They're training really well, the ones who didn't play in the weekend," said scrum coach Greg Feek.

"All the teams at the World Cup will be thinking about continuity. But then again the last few games a lot of boys have put their hands up."

And while giving those players another run will be important, it's clearly difficult not to have one eye on the quarter-finals.

While clearly members of Ian Foster's first-choice XV are in need of a rest before the knockout stages, there's some who could do with game time.

Cane and Tyrel Lomax made their returns from injury off the bench against Italy. Having made it through unscathed, a start this week seems inevitable.

"I know Foz [Foster] and Jase [forwards coach Jason Ryan] will have a few Panadols to get a team together," joked Feek.

Ethan Blackadder will be hoping to add to the selection headache. The blindside flanker is the only member of the squad yet to feature in France.

"[I'm] very hungry for game time," he said. "I haven't played for three or four weeks now.

"So if I get an opportunity, I'm ready to roll."

It would likely be off the bench if he does, with Shannon Frizell in need of more minutes following his return from injury last week.

But Blackadder does provide a physical punch.

Getting that right for their final pool match is important, as the All Blacks look to arrive at the business end of the tournament on the back of another dominant display.

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