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Cane content with changing No.7 role

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/11/2016 Angelo Risso
The 24-year-old Chiefs gun has been around the All Blacks camp since 2012, earmarked as successor to legendary skipper Richie McCaw. © Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images The 24-year-old Chiefs gun has been around the All Blacks camp since 2012, earmarked as successor to legendary skipper Richie McCaw.

All Blacks flanker Sam Cane says he's happy to see the openside position used as a two-punch combo if it produces results for the side.

Cane, 24, has stepped into former skipper Richie McCaw's No.7 jumper with aplomb in 2016, playing through the side's June series whitewash of Wales and early Rugby Championship dominance.

However a hamstring injury sustained against Argentina in Hamilton eight weeks ago curtailed Cane's Rugby Championship, opening the door for Ardie Savea and Matt Todd.

He has now returned to full fitness after a brief hit-out for provincial outfit Bay of Plenty and will be available for Saturday's Test against Ireland in Chicago.

Renowned for his endurance, legendary openside McCaw typically lasted the full 80 minutes at Test level, going the distance in 18 of his last 24 matches in the black jumper.

Cane, on the other hand, has often been withdrawn by boss Steve Hansen in 2016 for the high-intensity Savea as opposing defences tire.

The Chiefs co-captain has played 80 minutes just once since McCaw's retirement following the victorious 2015 World Cup.

He said he had no issues with Hansen's plan, so long as it benefited the squad.

"Traditionally as a No.7 you pride yourself on your fitness, being able to go 80 minutes, (and) that's sort of changed this year," the 37-cap Cane said.

"Whatever the selections are, it's never personal, it's not necessarily because one guy is better than the other, it's because of what's best for the team."

Savea, who weighs in at 100kg, told reporters on Monday he was struggling to put on the weight necessary to thrive as a Test openside.

Cane, who sits around eight kilos heavier, said he could empathise with the Hurricanes livewire given the changing demands of No.7 jumper.

Further time in the gym and a focus on nutrition would help Savea reach his goal, aiding him in making his presence felt at the breakdown.

"Five years ago, 100-103kg, that was good enough, but we're seeing guys five or six kilos heavier than that now running around," Cane said.

"You notice it's not quite as easy to get around the field so you've got to work hard in that aspect, but you certainly notice it in the collisions."

Assistant coach Ian Foster, for his part, wasn't giving anything away on who would wear the No.7 jumper against Ireland.

Cane, Savea or the in-form Todd could all start as All Blacks coaches look to keep their squad fresh at the end of a long rugby season.

"There might be a few changes here and there but it's not so much about just giving guys an opportunity, it's about making sure this squad performs," Foster said.

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