All Blacks captain Sam Cane says that, rather than focusing on Peter O’Mahony’s ‘shit Richie McCaw’ scald of him last year, his motivation came from within.
The 31-year-old New Zealander did allow himself a brief smile when O’Mahony’s brutal 2022 taunt was brought up in the post-match press-conference, after New Zealand’s RWC quarter final win over Ireland, but, as far as settling scores goes, it didn’t go any further than that.
Cane stated simply that he didn’t ‘buy into it.’
As an open-side flanker that captains the All Blacks, Cane’s similarities with Richie McCaw meant that he was always going to be measured against the two-time World Cup winning captain’s incredibly high standards.
O’Mahony exploited this last year, ripping into Cane at a time when, having been named as captain in early 2020, he was enduring a difficult period in the role.
“Sam Cane may be a fine leader of rugby players, but he is not good enough to play for the All Blacks,” wrote former England player Stuart Barnes in the Times back then.
“Yes, Cane works hard. He makes his share of tackles but none of them are destructive. They are the sort of tackles that, frankly, any professional openside should make.
“If New Zealand are to find their best back-row blend before next year’s World Cup, the hard call has to be made, with Cane relegated to the bench or jettisoned completely.” said Barnes.
Indeed, since taking over as captain in 2020, Cane’s team have lost 11 games with most of the top nations getting the unfamiliar taste of what it is to beat the All Blacks.
But Cane has always taken things in his stride.
“That’s just good rugby banter,” he said last year, “It’s all part of the game. I don’t mind it. No, it’s good stuff.”
And after inspiring his team to one of their most famous wins last Saturday, with a table-topping 22 tackles, to expect a bite back at some of those critics wouldn’t have been unreasonable, but Cane again wasn’t interested.
“No motivation from that,” Cane said in reference to the O’Mahony sledge.
“We know they have got a few players who love to get a bit, try to get under your skin, I suppose, with tactics like that.
“We went into the game knowing that they were going to be like that, but we just consciously focused on just sticking to our jobs and just executing our stuff. And, yeah, we didn’t buy into it. I suppose.”
Indeed, Cane was all-class in that post-match presser, taking the chance to shower praise on his opposite number Johnny Sexton.
“He has been outstanding for Ireland for a very long time, as long as I’ve been playing Ireland, he’s been there” said Cane.
“He directs that team, steers them around. The fact that he’s been able to play at the top level for so long is an absolute testament to him and his character. So Congratulations Johnny on an outstanding career.”
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