The new-look All Blacks leadership duo of coach Ian Foster and captain Sam Cane fully expect a Bledisloe Cup series against the Wallabies will be their first, and possibly only, international rugby of 2020.
Foster announced a new direction for the three-time world champions by unveiling 28-year-old Chiefs flanker Cane as his skipper to replace the retired Kieran Read.
Foster, who has stepped into the giant shoes of Steve Hansen, indicated he wants Cane to lead his team through to the next World Cup, mirroring the four-year cycles of back row greats Richie McCaw (2011 and 2015) and Read (2019).
Cane’s appointment comes despite uncertainty surrounding when the All Blacks will next play because of the coronavirus crisis.
Foster has all-but written off the scheduled July home Tests against Wales and Scotland as unfeasible.
Instead, the success in tackling COVID-19 on both sides of the Tasman makes a full contingent of Tests against Dave Rennie’s Wallabies a realistic prospect, he told Sky TV.
“The way I see it, when borders open, we’re playing.
“Clearly you’d think that a Bledisloe Cup series is going to be very possible some time not too late in the year. But who knows? We might end up playing them in December, it might be the lead-in to Christmas.
“When you look at where Australia’s trending (with the virus), we’ve got that sort of option (and) you look at the Pacific Islands.”
It remains to be seen if Rennie will reappoint Michael Hooper as Australia’s captain, which would set up a clash of two skippers wearing No.7.
Foster was adamant he had the right man, even though veteran lock Sam Whitelock was regarded a strong contender, having captained the All Blacks six times and led the Crusaders to three successive Super Rugby titles.
Cane has been a first-choice flanker since McCaw’s retirement although he was surprisingly demoted to the bench for last year’s World Cup semi-final loss to England, with Ardie Savea the starting openside.
“It’s about which person suited. Sam (Cane) has got the respect of the changing shed, he walks the talk, he’s a straight-shooter,” Foster said.
“He can annoy you at times, he comes and asks a lot of questions.
“That’s the sort of leader that can lead the All Blacks for the next 3-4 years.
“He’s won a World Cup and he’s lost a World Cup, and that’s good qualifications too. It means he’s got a bit of balance on both sides of the ledger.”