All Blacks: Dane Coles pulls out of captaincy race for Japan test

Returning hooker Dane Coles has withdrawn himself from consideration for the All Blacks captaincy against Japan this weekend.

Coles' experience among a team that will be composed of promising provincial rookies had him earmarked as a frontrunner for the role in Yokohama.

But after a lengthy injury-enforced hiatus from the international fold, Coles said he wasn't interested in the additional pressure and responsibilities that come along with being skipper of the All Blacks.

"Just because of the year I've had, I've got to be little bit selfish here and it's probably not the best thing for me to do," Coles said.

"Whoever that is, I'll support him. I've still got a lead role, if I play, in this team to help.

"There's obviously a lot of young guys coming through and whoever the captain is I'll support him but, for me, that's probably not the best thing."

After 11 months in the wilderness, Coles simply wants to focus on getting through full shift in the black number two jersey.

"It's my first game back, hopefully, in the All Blacks and we'll go from there."

That will likely see the captain's armband worn by Highlanders forward, Luke Whitelock.

Over the past two years, the hooker has endured a horror run of injury, which included concussion issues and most recently, a serious knee injury that curtailed an attempted comeback for Wellington in the Mitre 10 Cup.

He missed the Hurricanes' entire 2018 Super Rugby campaign and hasn't played a test match since November 2017.

In his absence, former understudy Codie Taylor has developed into arguably one of the All Blacks' best forwards.

Coles admits it's made for bittersweet viewing.

"If I'm honest, I'm like sitting at home and watching and like, 'shit'. That's just human nature.

"You don't want to make it personal. I've played rugby for a few years and when guys make that battle personal it can trip you up. You just have to strip it right back and go 'okay, I'm going to compete every day and do what's best for the team."

But Coles says he's heartened by his imminent return to the field after a rehabilitation period that had him questioning whether all the sacrifice was worthwhile.

"You get a little bit down and think that the best thing might be to give this year up. You have a little sulk to yourself and then get back on it and get through the next week.

"The hardest thing was to overcome those little setbacks and get back on the horse. The motivation was that I love the game and was keen to play the game.

"It is like being named again as an All Black. I have worked really hard, did all the sessions by myself and with all the setbacks I have had it was made worth it when my name was read out as being part of this group."