Sean Fitzpatrick believes that Tana Umaga’s retirement from Test rugby could cost the All Blacks the 2007 World Cup.
The former All Black hooker, who played 92 Tests for his country, said there were no obvious candidates to take over as captain.
“The team’s got huge potential in terms of depth and playing numbers, but one of the things that concerns me is the depth in leadership,” the former hooker told Sky Sports News. “When you look past Umaga and (Richie) McCaw in terms of who can captain the team, there does appear to be a void.
“I think one of the ideas behind Tana standing down now is to hopefully develop another captain before World Cup 2007 – whether it’s going to be McCaw or whether it’s going to be a Carl Hayman. I think they are going to need time at the helm, and time leading the team from the front.”
McCaw, who is the early favourite to take over the captaincy, summed up the influence that Umaga had on the New Zealand squad.
“He’s the guy everyone looks to, and he seems to have a pretty cool head and wise things to say. That’s going to be a huge loss,” he said.