The All Blacks have called up fly half Stephen Donald and winger Hosea Gear as replacements for full back Mils Muliaina and fly half Colin Slade who have both been ruled out due to injury.
New Zealand’s 33-10 win over Argentina, which earned a semifinal against archrival Australia, had a grim sequel when flyhalf Colin Slade and fullback Mils Muliaina were ruled out of the tournament, deepening an injury crisis that began when it lost star playmaker Dan Carter.
Muliaina fractured his left shoulder and Slade tore a groin muscle, forcing New Zealand to test against its vaunted resource of quality players.
Flyhalf Stephen Donald and winger Hosea Gear had both accepted the end of their international careers when they missed selection in New Zealand’s initial World Cup squad, but have now been called back to test duty.
Donald, who will join the English club Bath in November, has played 22 tests but has struggled to reach the standard that test rugby demands of a flyhalf and is already associated with one of New Zealand’s most galling losses to Australia.
New Zealand’s game unraveled when he came on as a replacement for Carter in a Bledisloe Cup test in Hong Kong in October last year. The All Blacks surrendered an early lead and went on to lose 26-24, their only loss of that season.
The loss of Carter and Slade leaves Aaron Cruden, who missed initial World Cup selection and has played only seven tests, as New Zealand’s new first-choice flyhalf.
“Have we got the depth? We’ll find out in the next two weeks I guess,” coach Graham Henry said.
“Where we’re lucky is that the guys who’re coming in have played test match football.
“They’ve been with this group in the last 12 months. They’ve been here, they know the players, they know the environment we live in and they know the rugby we’re trying to play, generally speaking. “