Rugby: Sam Cane, Dane Coles almost certain to make injury returns in All Blacks v USA Eagles test, says Ian Foster

Sam Cane and Dane Cole are almost certain to make their test returns against USA, when the All Blacks face off against the Eagles in Washington next weekend.

Cane (pectoral) and Coles (calf) have both travelled to the US from New Zealand, after missing the Rugby Championship campaign in Australia because of their injuries.

Both players, along with Sam Whitelock, made their playing returns last weekend, with Cane turning out for King Country in the Heartland Championship, while Coles played for Wellington in the NPC.

And with some rugby under their belts ahead of the test against the Eagles, coach Foster says that the All Blacks' first test of their end of year tour is the perfect opportunity to ease Cane and Coles back up to speed.  

"The reality is they're all going to be in contention," Foster says.

"Once we all join up late Sunday night, we've got a light Monday that we can have a good assessment of them, and plan our programme.

"We'll be looking at [it] with a two-game mindset, because we are sending some players from Washington to Wales on the Friday - that's purely practical with flight availabilities and everything.

"We've already flagged the likes of Sam Cane and Dane Coles particularly, guys that have been out for a while with injury, this would be an ideal game to get them back in there."

In reality, the test against the Eagles should be a walkover for the All Blacks. The US are ranked 17th in the world, compared to the All Blacks' status as No. 2, and most recently lost 34-15 to Uruguay in Rugby World Cup qualifying.

That will undoubtedly see the All Blacks play a side not considered to be at full strength, potentially resulting in a test debut for bolter Josh Lord, as well as give 'second string' players a chance at a run out after the Rugby Championship.

But Foster assures that those players have plenty to play for when the All Blacks take to the field next Sunday, with places up for grabs when the team head to Europe to face Wales in Cardiff a week later.

"There's no doubt we'll be putting some guys who've had limited gametime into the USA game," Foster adds.

"Without telling you, there's probably a couple of positions that we're putting guys in the USA game who've got a really good chance to play their way potentially into the Welsh selection.

"In many ways, we're using it to give gametime to some and grow their experience, but we're also putting the heat on some areas of our game that we feel we need to keep growing and look at some wide options.

"It's a bit of both for us."

Join Newshub for live updates of the All Blacks v USA Eagles from 8:30am Sunday October 24.