(Reuters) - New Zealand captain Sam Cane is relishing his return to the All Blacks squad after overcoming injury to potentially line up against the United States in Washington this month.
Cane last led the All Blacks against Argentina in November 2020 and Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Ardie Savea have captained New Zealand with the flanker sidelined since March.
Coach Ian Foster included the 29-year-old Cane in his squad for the northern hemisphere tour, which begins in the United States on Oct. 23 before matches against Wales, Italy, Ireland and France.
"I've had a bad run with two major surgeries in three years, but in 2020 I had a great year and not for one minute did I think this is not what I want to be doing," Cane told SENZ Radio.
"I was focused on getting back and still feel like I've got plenty to offer."
Cane suffered a pectoral injury that required surgery while playing for the Waikato Chiefs in Super Rugby Aotearoa in March and also underwent treatment on a shoulder issue.
He will leave New Zealand for Washington with minimal game time under his belt after playing 57 minutes for third-tier provincial side King Country on Saturday.
"It's...about getting back in the environment and training at that level of intensity the All Blacks do and getting a read off that," said Cane.
"But it sort of makes sense, that game against the States will be a pretty good sort of ease back into test footy."
During Cane's absence the All Blacks have been on a strong run of form, winning The Rugby Championship with five successive victories.
"They've taken a step up from last year," said Cane.
"A real strength is the depth that's been built and internal competition for places.
"We've seen growth in a lot of guys in terms of leadership and having to step up with guys away...I think we're in a much better place than last year and hopefully we can keep improving on this tour."
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Ed Osmond)