All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has heaped praise on loose forward Sam Cane ahead of this weekend's final Bledisloe Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane, saying he's stepped out of Richie McCaw's shadow and made the No.7 jersey his own.
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Source: 1 NEWS
Cane, who re-signed with New Zealand Rugby on Tuesday until the end of 2021, will bring up his 50th Test for the All Blacks in Saturday's clash at Suncorp Stadium - a milestone the All Blacks coach says has been a "very quick trip to 50".
"He came in as a young player," Hansen said of the 25-year-old.
"We identified him as the guy who would probably take over after Richie; part of our planning was to make sure he knew what Test rugby was about by the time Richie left and I think he was on 30 odd Test matches when Richie finished after the  World Cup."
Cane debuted for the All Blacks as a 20-year-old in 2012 when he came off the bench to play No.8 in a 22-19 win over Ireland in Christchurch.
Since then, he's earned 30 starts for the All Blacks and captained the team twice - the first at the 2015 World Cup against Namibia and again the following year against Italy on the end-of-year tour.
Hansen says it's all helped build an impressive resume.
"He's well versed," he said.
"He's in the leadership group, he's led the team a couple of times as captain and he's now the Chiefs captain so that side of his game and his development is growing and he's really growing into that No.7 jersey and making it his own."
Cane admitted on Tuesday that although he had won a World Cup, it wasn't as fulfilling a feeling as the prospect of winning as a starter at the tournament.
"I think, from a player's point of view, there's a difference in being involved in winning a World Cup and playing a major role on the field," he said.
"I played in most of the games [in 2015] with just a couple of starts so it takes on a different dynamic.
"It's something I'll be striving for - to play a major role in some of those big games in those big moments."