Rugby: Flanker Dalton Papali'i casts vote for Sam Cane's replacement as All Blacks captain

All Blacks and Blues flanker Dalton Papali'i has offered his two cents on the hottest question in NZ Rugby at the moment - who should be the new All Blacks captain?

Incumbent Sam Cane's announcement of his early departure from New Zealand at the end of this season has added fuel to that fire, with the Japan-bound flanker also conceding he'd played his last test as skipper.

That decision has magnified the spotlight on incoming head coach Scott Robertson, who says he's "held discussions" with players over the role, but won't reveal any more details, until he names his maiden 32-man squad for the England and Fiji tests after the Super Rugby Pacific final.

Ardie Savea during last year's World Cup final.
Ardie Savea during last year's World Cup final. Photo credit: Getty Images

The early frontrunners appear to be Robertson's former Crusaders captain Scott Barrett and current All Blacks vice-captain Ardie Savea.

Papali'i - the player who'll likely replace Cane in the hallowed black No.7 jersey 0- has given the latter his vote of confidence.

"Last year, when Sam Cane was injured, Ardie stood up to that position and I think he might be the next captain.  

"Who knows, especially with the new coaching staff and all that, I think it's all pretty different, but since Sam Cane's off, I think Ardie... it's my liking for him to be there."

Papali'i has paid tribute to Cane's leadership in the black jersey, admitting he set the standard for him to aspire to as his understudy.

He made special mention of his "good mate's" ability to tune out the noise under trying circumstance at last year's World Cup, where he responded to questions over his captaincy by leading the All Blacks to the final.

"I've never met someone who's so resilient," said Papali'i.  

"It's no secret that he went through the media with a bit of slander and all that, but for him to bounce back and lead that team, especially in the World Cup,  I've never seen a such a resilient man before, taking that role.  

"I've always had good competition with him and he's brought the best out of me."

The Aucklander admits Cane helped him elevate his own game with his fearless approach to his craft, comparing him to some of the great All Blacks to have played the position.

"He just throws his body into anything," he said. "I think that's the that's the main thing for a No.7 is not having a backward step, just throwing yourself into contact and getting into collisions.

"We've had some great All Black sevens come through, especially with Richie McCaw and Sam Cane, and hopefully I can try and fulfill my legacy in it.

"At the end of the day, Sam Cane epitomised what it was to be an All Blacks captain and an All Blacks No.7. That's one person I always looked up to going through the grades."