Neck fracture a huge blow for Sam Cane

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WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 15: Head coach Steve Hansen walks off with Sam Cane of the All Blacks after losing The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the South Africa Springboks at Westpac Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Of all the players and management, caught up in the elation of the last-gasp win for the All Blacks over the Springboks, Sam Cane was not one of them. Removed from the International match early, he would later find out that he had fractured a bone in his neck – thus ending his season early.

The All Blacks number seven has been a warrior; in the style of Richie McCaw. A front-on style, where the player’s body has taken much punishment – and on Saturday, it was pushed to ‘breaking point’.

Neck fracture a huge blow for Sam Cane

What medical information Dr. Tony Page did share, the most important was that there was no nerve damage. Sam Cane looked very uncomfortable post-tackle. His removal from the match was upsetting to watch, and a concern for any rugby fan.

The recovery period will put a halt to all immediate physical activity for the flanker. After surgery; which was within a day of his injury, Sam Cane was reported as being comfortable, and once cleared to return home, he will take leave in the Bay of Plenty to begin his three month period to allow the fracture to heal.

And during that time, undoubtedly the All Blacks and New Zealand Rugby medical staff will closely follow his rehabilatation. Why such close attention? Because with only 11 months until the 2019 Rugby World Cup, any injury to such a leading player like Sam Cane, is cause for concern.

That is, as much concern for his welfare. His recovery – which head coach Steve Hansen (see main photo) emphasized. And, for his return to full fitness, and to return to the form he has shown over the last three years.

Form is what every rugby player is measured by. So after the three months on the sidelines, Cane will look to use his preseason with the Chiefs Super Rugby franchise, to regain that level of fitness needed, in such a full-contact sport like rugby. There is little discussion that he will not follow that diagnosed timeline….but, what if he does not meet those stages?

End of year tour an ‘opportunity’ for Younger Loose Forward

With Cane certainly not going to be a part of the squad that will begin the All Blacks end of year tour of Japan and the UK/Ireland, then the question leads to the loose forwards possible replacement.

This is not through conspiracy, it is out of necessity. Losing a Sam Cane requires the choice of a like-for-like replacement or, a fresh option to compare skills against.

Dillon Hunt of North Harbour is tackled during the match between North Harbour and Counties Manakau at QBE Stadium on October 6, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The former would be to choose a player in the mold of Cane. So that might be names like, Dillon Hunt (see picture to right), Gareth Evans or Mitch Karpik. Similarly sized men, with established credentials from Super Rugby.

They would all be well prepared to join the group – after the Mitre 10 Cup season, and would be very proud to be an option to replace Cane.

The latter would invite selections/options that could be seen as experimental. The selectors could even focus on other positions, as the group of loose forwards they already hold may be suitable to ‘cover’ for Canes’ absence.

To rely on the likes of Ardie Savea, Shannon Frizzel or utilizing the cover of Jackson Hemopo, Akira Ioane and Liam Squire. That may leave a hole; if further injuries were to hit the camp, but with the Maori All Blacks heading to North America Рand players being just a business class place trip away Рcover could soon be found.

Those options could already be on the table for the All Blacks management. The likelihood bring a replacement, but as time is limited it could be a time to invest heavily in Ardie Savea, and utilize the existing cover at number 6 and 8.

Sam Cane loss puts ‘bump’ in road to RWC

This injury not only places a ‘bump in the road’ to the Rugby World Cup for both the player and the team, butis an example of the highly dangerous role that loose forwards play in the game of rugby.

Along with the contact-point, the role of flanker will always run a risk of injury. The casualty list includes David Pocock, Sam Warburton and many others. If this prognosis of Sam Cane recovering to play a full part in the 2019 RWC, then his will be a positive one. And this weekends result, was too a positive outcome for the playing group.

His injury will (temporarily) give another young loose forward an opportunity. But whichever player they look to fill the void, they will find it hard to fill the shoes of Sam Cane completely. He has advanced to being a world class player, and a senior leader in the group.

His loss will be felt deeply now…..but with time to recover, he will certainly do all he can, to regain his place (and form) to be a big part of the 2019 RWC squad.

“Main photo credit”
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