Richie McCaw backs Sam Whitelock to captain All Blacks in Sam Cane's absence

All Blacks great Richie McCaw has suggested Sam Whitelock is the man to lead the All Blacks in the opening test matches of 2021.

With regular captain Sam Cane out injured after having surgery on a torn pectoral tendon, All Blacks coach Ian Foster will name a new captain ahead of the opening test against Tonga on July 3.

McCaw, a double World Cup winning captain in 2011 and 2015, has suggested his former All Blacks and Crusaders team-mate Sam Whitlelock as the man for the job until Cane’s return.

“I don’t want to be saying too much, and there’s obviously a few candidates, but there’s no doubt ... Sam Whitelock, who has done it before, has done a good job over the years,” McCaw said.

The All Blacks were “pretty lucky” to have Whitelock to call on.

“There’s other guys as well, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he's the man to do the job.

“I think he just leads by example and people want to follow him. He fronts up every week.”

Whitelock had the respect of the people around him, McCaw added.

McCaw also paid tribute to his old loose forward mate Kieran Read, who announced his retirement from professional rugby this month.

Read, a No 8, played 128 test matches and was by McCaw’s side in the World Cup wins, before himself captaining the team from 2016 to 2019 and seeing out his playing career in Japan.

McCaw said Read had left a huge mark on the game in New Zealand, both as a player and a leader, and should be proud of what he had achieved.

“It was pretty cool to play alongside a guy like that.”

As Read looks forward to life after rugby, McCaw looks forward to being a father for the second time, with his wife Gemma due in about a week.

He said he didn’t know if they were having a boy or girl and would find out at the birth.

Ahead of the baby’s arrival, the couple left daughter Charlotte, 2, with her grandparents and enjoyed a three-day sojourn to Southland and Clutha tourist spots, including the Fiordland National Park and Catlins.

The couple have partnered with Tourism New Zealand to create a three-part video series exploring three New Zealand regions, including Southland.

McCaw said they took a boat trip across Lake Te Anau, walked 20 minutes to Lake Hankinson in Fiordland, took another boat ride and walked 10-15 minutes to the oldest hut in Fiordland, the Hankinson Hut.

“It’s not exactly a big day out walking, which was probably pretty lucky with my wife heavily pregnant,” he said.

McCaw, who competed in the Godzone adventure race in Fiordland in 2018, said he loved getting out in the bush and his brief visit back in Fiordland had given him a thirst for more.