Cane calls time on All Blacks captaincy, Test career

Incumbent All Blacks captain Sam Cane announced on Monday that he would be returning to Japanese club rugby at the end of the season and retiring from the international game, also revealing he was standing down as New Zealand skipper with immediate effect.

The 32-year-old flanker said he had decided to sign up for an extended stay at Suntory Sungoliath, where he is currently playing on sabbatical, and thus give up his eligibility to play for New Zealand.

"A good opportunity came my way with Suntory Sungoliath willing to offer me a three-year contract," Cane said in a New Zealand Rugby news release.

"I had to weigh up everything and, in the end, with a young family, it seemed like the best decision to help set up our future."

He had been by no means certain of retaining the All Blacks captaincy under new coach Scott Robertson in any case but his decision to retire from tests at the end of the season has sealed his fate in that regard.

"After discussing this at length with Sam, I fully understand the reasons behind his decision and support him," Robertson said.

"The position he plays asks a lot of you mentally and physically - both of those things ramp up when you are captain. So to do what he's done over such a long period is an incredible feat. I fully respect him taking this opportunity."

A tough openside flanker who has endured more than his fair share of injuries, Cane made his Super Rugby debut for Waikato Chiefs in 2011 and played the first of his 95 tests the following year.

A World Cup winner in 2015 and losing finalist after being red-carded last year in France, Cane remains eligible to play for the All Blacks this year after the Japanese season ends.

"If I'm fortunate enough to be selected in the All Blacks this year then I'll still be myself," said Cane, who has led his country in 27 tests.

"I love that team ... so if part of my role is contributing leadership off the field or on the field, I'll be happy to support the new captain as best as I can to help make it a smooth transition for the All Blacks."