A knee injury would place even more pressure on Chiefs captain Sam Cane, as he battles to win the All Blacks' No.7 jersey, according to Sir John Kirwan.
Cane, 30, left fans with their hearts in their mouths on Saturday night, as he limped from the field with a knee issue early on in the Chiefs' 54-21 victory over Western Force in Hamilton.
After battling serious injuries since taking on the All Blacks' captaincy in 2020, another time on the sidelines would be a serious blow to Cane's credentials leading into next year's World Cup in France.
Cane's injury woes in 2020 saw him lose his status as the All Blacks' undisputed first choice in the No.7 jersey.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster even handed the captaincy to Sam Whitelock as a means of relieving pressure on Cane, and allow him to return to full fitness without the burden of leadership.
And after a Super Rugby Pacific season that's seen Blues captain Dalton Papalii mature as a No.7, Cane will need every opportunity available to him to show why he should start for the All Blacks come the first test of the year - against Ireland on July 2.
Speaking on Sky Sport's the Breakdown, Sir John Kirwan lamented Cane's position, with any form of injury certain to hamper his All Blacks ambitions for this season.
"He wouldn't have wanted to get injured," Sir John said. "He's also under pressure, there's some really good guys standing up, Dalton's [Papalii] breathing down his neck.
"He's a competitor, Sam. He's had a difficult run the last few years. [He] came back last year, he just doesn't want any little niggles.
"He's the current All Black captain - although Whitelock did it at the end of the year. You don't need those two weeks off."
No news has come from the Chiefs over the extent of Cane's knee, or any potential stint on the sidelines.
Referee Ben O'Keeffe though moved to allay any fears over any serious long-term injury to Cane's knee.
As the match official in charge of Saturday's Chiefs win, O'Keeffe spoke with Cane post-match, where he seemed to be clear of a worst-case scenario.
"I saw him as I walked off after the game," O'Keeffe said. "He said he was OK, but you never know until he's properly assessed, the next day once you've had some ice on it.
"I hope he's back, he's a big player for that team [and] a big player for the All Blacks that we need as well.
"So it'll be interesting. Hopefully it's only for a few weeks."
Former All Blacks fullback Muliaina also concurred that Cane's condition after the final whistle should ease any concerns over the Chiefs' co-captain.
However, the Chiefs and All Blacks will wait anxiously for any news over Cane's conditions, with Super Rugby Pacific's playoffs beginning on June 3.
"It's encouraging that he walked off, I think that's a good thing," he said. "Any time you can walk off on your own without being helped off is encouraging.
"It's just the extent of it once all the bruising goes down. Fingers crossed, for his sake, not only for the Chiefs but for All Black rugby."
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