What do we know of the man charged with replacing the irreplaceable? We know this much. When Graham Henry, the New Zealand coach, sifted through his outside-half options for this competition in the knowledge that even the slightest orthopaedic scare concerning Daniel Carter would cause a nationwide seizure, he decided against recalling his second best No 10, Nick Evans of Harlequins, on the grounds it would compromise the All Black principle of not picking from abroad. Neither would the notion of summoning the occasionally brilliant Luke McAlister from Toulouse have crossed his mind yesterday.
Henry's stand is based on the assumption that Colin Slade, the little-known playmaker from Christchurch, is good enough. On the evidence of yesterday's romp against Canada, he has a cute passing game, an eye for a gap and some pace. But it remains a mighty ask for a player who arrived at this World Cup with five caps to perform half as well as Carter, let alone render the great man's absence an irrelevance. He may have the centres of everyone's dreams – Nonu, Sonny Bill, Conrad Smith – outside him, but as scrum-half is not a position of All Black strength, he cannot expect to be wet-nursed by his No 9s. New Zealand still have the look of favourites about them, but they are drifting just slightly.