Sam Cane retains captaincy as New Zealand name Rugby Championship squad

Sam Cane is backed to lead New Zealand despite a series defeat to Ireland
Sam Cane is backed to lead New Zealand despite a series defeat to Ireland

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster has made two changes to the Rugby Championship squad that will kick-off next month.

Foster, who faced the criticism for the recent home series defeat against Ireland which saw them drop down to their lowest ranking of fourth place has retained Sam Cane as the captain.

Ethan de Groot and Shannon Frizell are the two additions to the squad with Karl Tu'inukuafe and Pita Gus Sowakula are the players dropped.

Second row Brodie Retallick is retained in the squad despite suffering a cheekbone fracture during the series against Ireland.

Hurricanes' prop Tyrell Lomax, Highlanders' lock Josh Dickson and centre Braydon Ennor are added to the squad as cover for Retallick and Jack Goodhue, who has a knee injury.

"We are never happy when we don't achieve what we want to," said Foster in reaction to the criticism following the result against Ireland.

"We understand the fans aren't happy with that, but you have a promise that we are looking forward to getting stuck into our work," he said.

"There's no doubt I'm under pressure, but can I also say, I'm always under pressure. I've always felt that pressure.

"External people will try to intensify that pressure, but it doesn't change the fact that, as an All Blacks coach, you live in that world all the time".

New Zealand will kick-start their Rugby Championship campaign with two away Tests against South Africa and Foster is wary of the physical challenge ahead.

"They're tough, they're physical, they've got some areas of their game they are focused on, particularly around the mauling game, the driving game, and that's an area that hurt us in that third Test, so we've got some clear areas we've got to improve," he added.

New Zealand squad:

Forwards: Dane Coles, Samisoni Taukeiaho, Codie Taylor, Aidan Ross, George Bower, Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Ethan de Groot, Angus Ta’avao, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa’i, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane (c), Shannon Frizell, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea, Hoskins Sotutu

Backs: Finlay Christie, Folau Fakatava, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Stephen Perofeta, Jack Goodhue, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Quinn Tupaea, Jordie Barrett, Caleb Clarke, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Will Jordan, Sevu Reece

Replacement players: Josh Dickson, Braydon Ennor, Tyrel Lomax