Cane looks at positives ahead of first Ireland Test

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Captain Sam Cane said after Will Jordan was the latest player to go down with the virus, there was still a strong team looking forward to taking part in a Test against Ireland.


"The team has been really impressive. Maybe it's because we're so used to it throughout Super Rugby.


"We've been rolling with the punches. It's not ideal, but in terms of disruption, surprisingly, there hasn't been too much at all," he said.


Cane said memories of last year's defeat by Ireland in Dublin meant the pressure would go on the All Blacks' forward pack to step up in set-pieces and collisions.


"It's no secret Test rugby is about dominating collisions and winning small inches and moments like that so focus on that and playing smart footy and having strong defence. Defence that can create pressure, create turnovers and opportunities," he said.


Cane said after his injury-disrupted end to the Super Rugby Pacific campaign, he was feeling good and had been able to get plenty of running into his legs.


At the same time he was disappointed for Jordan, David Havili and Jack Goodhue.

"It's terrible timing for everyone who got Covid. But there is a lot of depth and competition for places. I don't know if Will was going to start or not, but I'd say he was a pretty good chance.


"It just means someone else will step up in his place, and it's another opportunity for someone. Hopefully, Covid doesn't knock him around too much and, realistically, he's probably only a chance for the third Test," he said.


Cane said he trusted the experience available in his leadership group to share the burden imposed on their preparation.


"We've got guys in the forward pack, the likes of Brodie [Retallick] and Sam Whitelock taking charge of things there, and Beaudy [Beauden Barrett] runs a pretty good cutter out the back, so the guys are stepping up, and it's been a good first few days," he said.


Cane said the usual way a pre-Test week worked was for less of the coaches voices to be heard as the week progressed, and this week's events had meant that process started a day earlier.

"Monday's about learning and getting our plays on board. Our leaders and guys in key positions get their heads around those pretty early and then it's about driving those and the different skills in the areas we want to target," he said.


Having former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt to call on was lucky for the All Blacks, and he had made a significant contribution to the preparation.


Schmidt was not a permanent addition to the side. He worked with them at training on Tuesday, and would be involved again on Thursday at training.


"He's helping with defence predominantly, but it's nice to have some wise eyes looking over things," Cane said.


Schmidt was working with the backs and wasn't changing anything with the structures that defence coach Scott McLeod had prepared.


"He's about lending another pair of eyes, chipping in, and being able to coach on the run at training, and give instant feedback to players. Nothing that's new," he said.


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