Former All Blacks captain Stu Wilson has tipped Chiefs loose forward Sam Cane to succeed Kieran Read as the next skipper of the national rugby side.
Read has revealed his plans to sign with the Japanese Toyota Verblitz club after this year's World Cup, effectively retiring from NZ rugby.
Over 118 games in the black jersey, the veteran number eight has been part of two World Cup victories and succeeded Richie McCaw as captain in 2016.
- Kieran Read signs with Japanese club Toyota Verblitz
- Sam Cane back training after neck injury against Springboks
"He's an extraordinary player, but it's time for him to move on and graze out in the paddock," Wilson told The AM Show. "We've got to look for someone else.
"The key thing is you've got to find a player who is a first-choice player - he's the first pick, the first at the top of the list.
"For me, they have to look at Sam Cane."
The 27-year-old Chiefs flanker has made 60 appearances since debuting for the All Blacks in 2012 and became first-choice openside when McCaw retired three years ago.
But he was last sighted being helped off the field in Pretoria with fractured neck vertebrae and isn't expected to return to Super Rugby for several weeks yet.
The AM Show host Duncan Garner wondered if Cane would even play rugby again, given the seriousness of his injury.
"Well, let's hope so," said Wilson. "He will be getting all the best medical treatment in the world to get him right, because he's a solid player and a first-pick player."
In Cane's absence, Hurricanes flanker Ardie Savea stepped into the void admirably, showing he could play all three loose-forward positions effectively.
"When Sam Cane is a fit person, he, to me, is the number one pick," says Wilson. "He's captained the All Blacks a few times and has captained the Chiefs for a couple of years, but his age is the key."
Garner rattled off several other candidates - Sam Whitelock, Dane Coles and Codie Taylor - and Whitelock, 30, has stood in as captain during Read's previous injury absences.
"With Sammy Whitelock, if you want to take a captain for four years to the next World Cup, you've got to look at someone in their 20s," said Wilson. "Maybe you go for someone like Sam Whitelock in for two years and then bring someone else in.
"But for me, if Sam Cane is ready to play at this year's World Cup, you make him captain for four years and take him right through to the next one."
While some Super Rugby sides have opted for co-captains - Cane shares his Chiefs role with All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick - Wilson wasn't in favour of that for the national team.