To the horror of the host nation, the All Blacks have lost two more players to injury: the long-serving full-back Mils Muliaina, who won his 100th cap in Sunday's quarter-final win over Argentina and picked up a shoulder fracture for his trouble, and the outside-half Colin Slade, whose torn groin muscle pretty much mirrors the problem that forced the senior No 10, Daniel Carter, out of the competition.
As a result of all this, the wing Hosea Gear, who should surely have been in the squad in the first place, and the Bath recruit Stephen Donald have been added to the party ahead of this weekend's last-four tie with Australia.
Muliaina, whose Test career is now over, bid an emotional farewell to his fellow All Blacks yesterday. "I know I'm not going to be back and it's tough," he said, tearfully. "On Sunday night I was on top of the world, winning that 100th cap. I'm back down again now." Donald's call-up, meanwhile, justified the coach Graham Henry's clever decision to ensure that even though the Waikato stand-off was heading for the English Premiership, he would not leave New Zealand until after the World Cup.
Henry confirmed that Aaron Cruden (below), the 22-year-old Manawatu player called in last week on Carter's traumatic exit, was now in line to start against the Wallabies. "It looks like he's our senior 10 now, doesn't it?" he said. "My main task is to keep him off his skateboard. Last week, he was skateboarding around Palmerston North, enjoying a few beers and watching the team play. Now, he's the top No 10 in the country."
And Donald? "He's been away on a whitebaiting trip," the coach revealed. "One of the criteria for selection was 2lb of fresh whitebait. There's a benefit to every situation."Reuse content