The winger Zac Guildford scored four tries as the All Blacks attempted to move on without Dan Carter by recording a 79-15 victory over Canada in their final group game yesterday.
"[Guildford] played particularly well, which was very pleasing," coach Graham Henry said. "He has put his hand up and is a selection candidate for next week. I'm very pleased for him," he added of the All Blacks' quarter-final against Argentina next Sunday.
Carter's exit from the tournament was described by Henry as a "major" blow, though the team also suffered a series of injuries in the match. Carter's replacement Colin Slade limped off in the second half, as did utility back Israel Dagg, while loosehead prop Tony Woodcock was forced off following a head clash. Henry, though, expects them all to be fit for the next game.
Guildford, making his first start of the tournament after being forced to apologise for "excessive drinking" in Brisbane last month in the wake of New Zealand's Tri-Nations defeat by Australia, ran in a hat-trick of tries in the first half as the All Blacks' backline cut the Canadians to shreds.
Guildford also helped set up tries for Dagg and full-back Mils Muliaina, while Victor Vito smashed over after the All Blacks had demolished the Canadian scrum inside their own 22. Canada had defended for most of the first half but managed to score just before the break when winger Conor Trainor crossed in the corner.
Trainor added his second immediately after half-time and the All Blacks lost structure soon after but still managed to post their highest score against Canada as Jimmy Cowan, Jerome Kaino (two), Sonny Bill Williams, Guildford and Vito all crossed.
They will now face Argentina, who beat Georgia 25-7 yesterday but will need to make big improvements if they are to upset the hosts as they struggled to quell their lower-ranked opponents in a match littered with errors in Palmerston North.
France centre Fabrice Estebanez has been cited for a dangerous tackle during their 19-14 Pool A loss to Tonga on Saturday which could lead to a suspension for the quarter-final against England.
France's defeat left coach Marc Lièvremont thinking his players may not be as good as he first thought. He went so far as to compare the campaign with that of the French football team at the 2010 World Cup, where players refused to train after a fall-out with the coach Raymond Domenech. "French rugby players laughed at the French football players last year," Lièvremont said. "In some respect, we didn't get off the bus either."
Australia winger Drew Mitchell has been ruled out of the remainder of the World Cup with a hamstring injury picked up in Saturday's 68-22 victory over Russia.Reuse content