Sam Cane says he doesn’t expect to make the starting line-up until New Zealand’s rugby Test against Italy in Rome next weekend.
Cane – the 2020 All Blacks captain – made his return from a six month pectoral injury for New Zealand as a replacement in the 104-14 win over the United States on Saturday.
After the All Blacks landed in the UK on Monday ahead of the month-long northern hemisphere leg tour – featuring games against Wales, Italy, France and Ireland – Cane said he wasn’t fit enough to be playing Test rugby against a tier one nation.
But he predicted a return to the starting line-up in November 6’s clash in Rome.
“There’s no expectations or pressure internally, or from the coaches’ point of view, to take off immediately from where I left off,” said Cane ahead of Saturday’s Test against Wales in Cardiff.
“I’m loving being back in the environment, the high standards, the training level and the intensity, getting help and training with such quality players and coaches.
“I’m used to that level, I know what’s required, it’s just about making sure I can get my body back to doing it as quick as possible.”
New Zealand isn’t short of leaders in Cane’s absence, with four players – locks Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, halfback Aaron Smith and back-row forward Ardie Savea – captaining the team in 2021.
Meanwhile, Alex Cuthbert has been recalled by Wales for the first time since 2017 ahead of the match against the All Blacks.
The winger has been overlooked by his country for the past three seasons while playing his club rugby in England with Exeter, but he is now back in Wales with the Ospreys.