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Sam Cane to call time on All Blacks career

Sam Cane All Blacks rugby
All Blacks captain Sam Cane will step away from international play at year's-end. PHOTO: DAVE LINTOTT PHOTOGRAPHY

Almost 12 years since making his All Blacks debut, Rugby World Cup winner and two-time Super Rugby champion Sam Cane has made the decision to bow out of the Test arena at the end of 2024.


Having played 95 tests (27 as captain), the 32-year-old has decided to focus on spending more time with family and sign a long-term contract with Suntory Goliath in Tokyo.



As planned, Cane will return home at the end of the current Japanese club season where he is on sabbatical and is eligible to be selected for the All Blacks in 2024, giving him the chance to become the team’s 13th test centurion.


In 2025, Cane will relocate with his wife Harriet and two-year-old son Hudson to Tokyo after signing a three-year contract with Suntory Goliath. The deal was made possible after he requested an early release from the final year, 2025, of his contract with New Zealand Rugby (NZR). 


“A good opportunity came my way with Suntory Sungoliath willing to offer me a three-year contract,” Cane said. “It was something we had to seriously consider as a family due to the stage I am at in my career. It will see me through to 2027 when I’ll have my 35th birthday.  


“I’ve always thought that if I can play professional rugby for that length of time I’d be doing really well considering the position I play and the age that I started playing professionally.  


Sam Cane All Blacks rugby
Sam Cane has a chance to become the 13th All Blacks Centurion in 2024. PHOTO: DAVE LINTOTT PHOTOGRAPHY

“I had to weigh up everything and, in the end, with a young family it seemed like the best decision to help set up our future. It was a very hard one because I love the teams that I represent here in New Zealand.


“We obviously love this country, we love being around friends and family but we ultimately made the decision to sign with Suntory, which we’re really excited about. We have enjoyed our first year there and we just thought it was the best thing for our young family.” 


Cane and his wife are now expecting their second child. Being more available to them is part of the strategy moving forward - the longest stint away from home is just one night during the Japanese club competition.  


“The fact that Hudson is getting older, he understands when I’m going away but doesn’t understand why. In Japan we’ll get to spend so much time together as a family,” Cane added. 



Having made his professional debut at the age of 18, the Chiefs and Bay of Plenty flanker reached the pinnacle of world rugby, playing a key role in the 2015 Rugby World Cup win, captaining the side for the first time during the tournament.  


Before making a stellar All Blacks debut with two tries against Ireland in 2012, Cane was part of the junior world champion New Zealand Under-20 team in 2011. 


Cane is known for his leadership, stoic defence and his ability to overcome setbacks. His goal is to continue providing those qualities to the All Blacks environment, albeit without the captain’s armband. 


“It’s part of the natural process that happens in rugby. I had my time as captain and it was a huge honour and privilege,” Cane said. 


“If I’m fortunate enough to be selected in the All Blacks this year, then I’ll still be myself. I love that team and I just want to see the All Blacks do well, so if part of my role is contributing leadership off the field or on the field, I’ll be happy to support the new captain as best as I can to help make it a smooth transition for the All Blacks. 


“I’m really grateful for the time that I had to wear the captain’s armband. It was a huge honour and privilege – a lot of lessons out of it and growth.” 



All Blacks coach Scott Robertson added: “After discussing this at length with Sam, I fully understand the reasons behind his decision and support him. 


“The position he plays asks a lot of you mentally and physically – both of those things ramp up when you are captain. So to do what he’s done over such a long period is an incredible feat. I fully respect him taking this opportunity.” 


NZ Rugby CEO Mark Robinson also acknowledged Cane’s contribution and said he looked forward to welcoming him home later this month.  


“Sam is a special member of the All Blacks family and we have huge admiration for what he has achieved in the game.  He has made significant contribution to New Zealand rugby, and we are fully supportive of his decision to be with his family.” 

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