Rugby: Sam Cane captaincy on hold, as Ian Foster backs 'status quo' for All Blacks' northern tour

Sam Cane will not necessarily return to the All Blacks as captain, with coach Ian Foster sticking with the "status quo" for their northern hemisphere tour.

Cane hasn't played since rupturing his pectoral (chest) muscle during Super Rugby for the Chiefs, but will rejoin the national team, when they travel to the United States later this month.

In his absence, the All Blacks have fielded four different captains, with Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick and Ardie Savea all leading the side this season.

Cane will be eased back into rugby over coming weeks and Foster hints he may not burden him with captaincy during that process.

"At the moment, we're going to go with the status quo," says Foster. "The players we're bringing over are joining this group. 

"As far as I'm concerned, this is the status quo that we've got right here. Ardie will carry on leading this team in the short term future, but once we get to Washington and Wales, and make some assessments of where the other guys are at, then we'll let people know."

With USA and Italy on their northern itinerary, the All Blacks will likely rotate players in between tests against tougher opposition like Wales, Ireland and France.

After their Rugby Championship triumph, the team will enjoy a week off in Australia, before a return to training for the end-of-year. Foster insists he isn't thinking about selection until then, but admits Cane may be eased back into captaincy.

"Clearly, we've got some really good leaders in this team," says Foster. "Ardie's done a good job, Sam Whitelock was outstanding in the early part of the year and Sam Cane, we're likely to let him come back into the environment for those first 2-3 weeks."

In his absence, the All Blacks have also found capable loose forward replacements in Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ethan Blackadder and Luke Jacobson, so Cane may also face a battle to regain his starting spot. 

"He's got to get his own confidence and find his own feet. We will juggle that as we go along, but we've got a clear plan about that, we just want to assess those guys when they come in."