All Blacks v Wales: Dalton Papali'i shines in Sam Cane's absence with convincing Cardiff performance

Dalton Papali'i has ensured the All Blacks didn't miss injured captain Sam Cane, with a masterful display in New Zealand's 55-23 victory over Wales.

After Cane's tour was ended by a broken cheekbone in the All Blacks' victory over Japan last month, Papali'i has made the No.7 jersey his own at Cardiff's Principality Stadium, in one of his best games for his country.

Papali'i made 14 tackles - second only to veteran and acting skipper Sam Whitelock - breaking the line in a play that eventually led to Codie Taylor's opening try.

While the All Blacks have never asked nor needed Papali'i to be another Sam Cane, he has needed to step into his captain's shoes during the last two injury-plagued seasons.

Papali'i's performance is no surprise to coach Ian Foster, even as opportunities to start in tests prove rare.

In combination with Ardie Savea and Shannon Frizell as a loose forward trio, Papali'i's presence gives the All Blacks something different, compared to Cane's involvement.

"Did I expect it? Yes I did," Foster said of Papali'i's display. "I thought he showed that last year.

"It's a bit tough when you're sitting behind the skipper, I guess, but whenever he's been asked to do what he needs to do, he's played well for us.

"He's a different style of seven, but he was abrasive today. He brings something different to our pack - which is exciting for us."

For Papali'i, 25, displays like Cardiff come down to the work going in off the park.

Dalton Papali'i against Wales.
Dalton Papali'i against Wales. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Even with the pressure of filling his captain's boots, confidence in his preparation gives the All Blacks flanker belief in being able to make the most of his latest opportunities.

"When Sam is in the environment, I still prepare like I'm playing each week," he told Newshub.

"Even if I'm not or I'm coming off the bench, I still prepare like I'm starting.

"There was pressure there, but to be honest, I keep the same mindset, the same process during the week."