Sam Cane. Photo by Getty
The All Blacks' northern rivals are about to lose their
last hiding place - the slow ruck - and Steve Hansen's men are,
not surprisingly, relishing the chance to expose them.
The tests against Scotland, Italy, Wales and England will be
the first time the All Blacks have played under the new
International Rugby Board rules - the most obvious of which
will be the different scrum engagement calls and, most
significantly, the five-second ruck law.
Both rules were used in the recent ITM Cup season and the
matches sped up considerably as a result. The scrum call is
now 'crouch, touch, set' rather than 'crouch, touch, pause,
engage'. Under the ruck law, teams are allowed a maximum of
five seconds with which to use the ball or concede a scrum.
The All Blacks are considered the fittest team in world rugby
and any increased pace will suit them more than any other.
They pride themselves on the way they finish games - although
it didn't quite come off in their most recent encounter, the
disappointing 18-18 draw against Australia two weeks ago.
It's unlikely any of their four northern countries will be
able to stick with New Zealand in the second half of their
"It will speed up their game, hopefully, because they like to
slow the game down like that," flanker Sam Cane said of the
opposition. "Hopefully that will work in our favour.
"I don't think it will affect us too much. Generally we like
to play with a pretty high tempo and the ball doesn't sit at
the base of our ruck for more than five seconds very often.
"I guess they will have to get organised around the ball. We
pride ourselves on the fact that anyone can play halfback
and, if the ball's available, we get rid of it. I guess they
will have to adopt the philosophy a little bit."
No 8 Kieran Read said the northern teams could be adapting to
that style anyway, but not all find it easy to change an
This year Argentina tried to play with pace and width against
the All Blacks in Buenos Aires and came a distant second
after competing well in Wellington earlier in the Rugby
Championship with a more conservative plan.
Cane, on his first northern tour, thought it would take time
for the forwards to settle into the new scrum call cadence.
"Generally, with a bit of research, it's taken the guys two
games to get their heads around it and get the timing right,
but it's the same for everyone."
The 20-year-old won't be allowing himself the same luxury of
easing himself into the tour. He quite rightly wants to make
an immediate impact and is likely to be involved early as
Richie McCaw is given a rest in either the Scotland or Italy
Cane has been forced to play a waiting game this year as he
duelled with Tanerau Latimer for the Chiefs' No 7 jersey and
has had even fewer opportunities behind McCaw at the All
Blacks, but all that is about to change.
He has played three tests, including just one start, but will
also be aware this is his chance to shine ahead of next year
when McCaw will take his sabbatical during the three tests
"When I get a shot, I have to take it," Cane agreed. "Whether
that's a start or time off the bench, I have to make the most
"I guess the biggest challenge for me is trying to keep fit
each week. You can train all you like but match fitness is
something different. The mind and body is very well because I
haven't been playing much, so I'm definitely itching to get