New Zealand captain Cane to retire from internationals

Sam Cane
Sam Cane was the first man to be sent off in a Rugby World Cup final [Reuters]

New Zealand captain Sam Cane will retire from international rugby at the end of 2024 after signing a three-year deal with Japanese side Suntory Sungoliath.

Cane will return from a spell with the club at the end of the Japanese season this summer and be eligible to play for the All Blacks for the rest of the year.

The 32-year-old will then return to Japan after New Zealand Rugby agreed to release him from the final year of his contract, which ran through until the end of 2025.

“A good opportunity came my way with Suntory Sungoliath willing to offer me a three-year contract,” said Cane.

“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."

The flanker, who made his All Blacks debut in 2012, has played 95 Tests, with 27 as captain, and helped his country win the 2015 World Cup.

However, he became the first male player in World Cup history to be sent off in a final during New Zealand's defeat by South Africa at the 2023 tournament.

The All Blacks have not played a game since then and Cane will not be captain when they are next in action.

“It’s part of the natural process that happens in rugby," said Cane. "I had my time as captain and it was a huge honour and privilege.

“If I’m fortunate enough to be selected in the All Blacks this year then I’ll still be myself."

Cane originally joined Suntory Sungoliath last year when he took up a sabbatical option in his Waikato Chiefs contract.

All Blacks coach Scott Robertson said: “After discussing this at length with Sam, I fully understand the reasons behind his decision and support him."