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'Off-field distractions': All Blacks captain opens up on coaching conundrum

SPOTLIGHT: All Blacks captain Sam Cane is hoping that the bosses at New Zealand Rugby’s headquarters can help limit the off-field distractions for his team ahead of the World Cup.

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The expected appointment of a new head coach and a growing exodus of leading players is not helping the All Blacks’ preparation for the event in France later this year.

New Zealand Rugby has indicated it likely will announce a successor to Ian Foster before the tournament begins, a move some observers have described as destabilising.

The issue became more fraught this week when Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson, one of the leading candidates to take over from Foster, said the announcement of a new All Blacks coach is imminent.

New Zealand Rugby has rushed to douse speculation they are about to announce an appointment.

“New Zealand Rugby is continuing to have internal discussions but an announcement about the All Blacks head coach or process is not imminent,” the body said in a one-sentence statement.

The story continues below…

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While there has been a lot of noise around the coaching process, Cane just wants some energy to be directed in a positive manner.

“I’m only going to be focusing on this current World Cup and not looking further past it and I don’t really want to get caught up in anything that isn’t involved in directing us to winning a World Cup. I just won’t comment on the rest of that,” Cane said initially.

He added: “What gives us the best chance as an All Blacks team of winning the World Cup is having as little off-field distraction as we can so that all the energy can be going into performance and playing,” Cane said on Thursday.

“I just think as long as it’s dealt with in a way that’s least disruptive for the current group so that there’s as little off-field distraction as possible.

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“Whether that’s before a World Cup or after, that’s not up to me.”

The new coach – whomever that may be – will face a major rebuilding task as more and more current All Blacks retire or head overseas.

Hooker Dane Coles announced Thursday he will retire at the end of the year. The 36-year-old front-row forward has played 84 Tests, scoring 20 tries but his career recently has been hampered by injuries.

Veteran lock Brodie Retallick has confirmed he will play in Japan after the World Cup. The former World Rugby Player of the Year joins a growing list of New Zealanders seeking to take advantage of the lucrative contracts available in Japan.

Flyhalves Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett and scrumhalf Aaron Smith also are heading to Japan. Smith has signed a long-term contract with the Toyota club which likely will end his All Blacks career.

More players are expected to join the exodus as the September 8-October 28 World Cup nears.

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