All Blacks v USA Eagles: Sam Whitelock named captain over Sam Cane, Ardie Savea for northern tour

Sam Whitelock has resumed the All Blacks skipper for the end-of-year tour, ahead of Sam Cane and Ardie Savea.

Whitelock, 33, assumed the captaincy earlier in 2021, with incumbent Cane sidelined by injury.

Cane, 29, has been out of action since the end of March, after rupturing his pectoral muscle playing for the Chiefs in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Whitelock missed the All Blacks' Australian-based Rugby Championship campaign to support wife Hannah through the birth of their third child, with Savea assuming the captaincy.

With Cane now returning to the field, coach Ian Foster suggested he would be eased back into the environment and assistant coach John Plumtree has confirmed Whitelock will lead the side.

"Sam Whitelock will be taking over the captaincy from Ardie," he says. "Ardie's been recognised for the great job he did in Australia, winning the Rugby Championship.

"His style of leadership was fantastic, but it's also great to have Sam come in. He obviously couldn't make the tour, with his wife Hannah having a baby, but we think it's good for the team that he takes over."

Plumtree insists Cane needs to concentrate solely on playing, rather than leading.

"Obviously, we've got Sam Cane here as well, but we feel that Sam just needs to focus on his game, get his game right.

"He's been out for a long time and the added burden of captaincy wouldn't be a good thing for his game right now."

Recently, Cane returned to action in a rare Heartland Championship appearance with King Country. And with some gametime under his belt, Plumtree says the All Blacks want to see Cane build on that as the team prepare to face the likes of Wales, Italy, Ireland and France after this weekend's clash with USA.

"He's just obviously had a little hit out with the King Country side," Plumtree adds.

"I had a good chat to Sam about it. He felt really confident in his body, and I think that's the first step. The next step is getting a bit of time out on the field, and training as well.

"He'll get integrated back into this weekend at some point. No pressure on him, he's just got to get out there and do his thing.

"But it will take a bit of time, he's been out for a little while."

Whitelock will likely lead the All Blacks in their tour opener against USA Eagles at Washington DC.

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