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New Zealand's nightmare comes true

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Tom Fordyce | 08:55 UK time, Sunday, 2 October 2011

Auckland, North Island

Having gone to bed in a state of panic - or in the case of England and Scotland supporters, a state of inebriation - New Zealand awoke on Sunday to the sporting news it had been dreading: Dan Carter's World Cup was over.

This was the doomsday scenario for home fans, the unspoken nightmare that's been haunting them for the past four years.

As soon as the photo of a stricken Carter, prone in pain on the training pitch, had circulated on television channels and websites late on Saturday, the shakes had set in. When a statement from All Blacks doctor Deb Robinson confirmed the worst, the mourning began.

"It's bloody awful, really," lamented ex All Blacks skipper Todd Blackadder.

"God that's bad news," bemoaned former Kiwi coach and captain Sir Fred Allen.

Talisman, pivot, totem, golden boy; Carter is all of these to the All Blacks team, and a lot more besides.

This World Cup was supposed to be his coronation, his string-pulling and goal-kicking at fly-half guiding a nation to its sporting destiny, the perfect 10 to guide his team to World Cup glory on home soil.

Dan Carter lies on the floor after being injured while practicing his kicking

Carter is considered by many observers to be the most complete fly-half in rugby union. Pic: Getty.

But sport seldom has time for neat plotlines and easy poetry. Most Kiwis had never heard of the left adductor longus tendon, let alone known that it can tear when you're doing something as simple as kicking a few practice goals. They do now.

Auckland appeared to be in a state of shock, the streets like a ghost-town, although to be fair it often looks like that on a Sunday.

Elsewhere it was just as bad. A friend flying down to Dunedin for the Ireland v Italy game reported that the woman sitting next to him had burst into tears on hearing the news.

It should feel like an over-reaction. But the half-back slots are the one area that the mighty All Blacks do not have world-class strength in depth.

Carter and his stand-in, 23-year-old Colin Slade, are both former pupils at Christchurch Boys' High School. The immediate similarities end there.

One has 85 caps and 1,250 Test points, more than any other player in history. The other began Sunday with eight and 49.

"It would have to affect the All Blacks' chances of winning the tournament," says Sir Fred, "because Carter's the best first-five we've ever had, and he's class all the way.
"They've only got to lose somebody like Richie McCaw, too, then we'll really start to sweat.''

McCaw sat out Sunday afternoon's game against Canada too, although he is expected to be fit for next weekend's quarter-final against Argentina.

For Slade the match represented an instant chance to convince the doubters that Carter might not be missed. By the time he limped off after an hour the jury was probably still out.

His first clearing kick was charged down to give Canada the chance to take an early shock lead. He then made amends with a neat sniping break and long pass to put Zac Guildford away for their side's first try, but then had another long pass intercepted and flung another at his team-mate's bootlaces to force a needless knock-on.

With the boot too he struggled, missing a succession of conversions from either side, although once again the suspicion remains that this World Cup ball is a nightmare for place-kickers to control.

Despite his travails, however, the All Blacks still prospered, their 12 tries and 79-15 victory evidence that this is a team with talent in abundance.

Guildford ran in four tries alone while Sonny Bill Williams again looked a world-beater at centre, yet neither man is guaranteed a starting-berth in the quarters. The return of their player of the year Kieran Read at eight is also a significant boost, just as the quality of the opposition moves up a notch.

"The way the All Blacks play is bigger than one player," says Argentina captain Felipe Contepomi. "Carter is the best in the world, but they still have a lot to offer without him."

Neither is the gauche Slade the only option at 10. Highlanders' Aaron Cruden, called into the squad on Sunday, is a fine organiser and runner, even if his kicking skills leave a little to be desired, while scrum-half Piri Weepu can also slot in at fly-half, his own kicking game robust and his footwork neat.

"For the sake of this team and this country we've just got to forge ahead anyway," believes Blackadder, now Carter's coach at Crusaders.

"This is going to sound really terrible and uncaring, but they've just got to move on. I think there's no point in looking back now.

"Carter is world class, but they no longer have him in the team - so they've got to store all their faith and belief into Slade and Cruden."

For the tournament as a whole the effect of Carter's absence is intriguing.

Former World Cup winner Michael Lynagh is not alone in thinking the remaining three weeks may be poorer for his stellar absence. But it might also make the final shakedown a whole lot more interesting.

Of the nations left in the draw, only the All Blacks had looked indomitable. Carter's injury robs them of that air, not only because of his physical absence from the pitch but also for the self-doubt that may now start to worm away on team and country's collective consciousness.

This weekend South Africa have also lost the excellent Frans Steyn to injury, while the Wallabies have seen Drew Mitchell added to their lengthening casualty list.

The competition was already opening up in what we've been calling the northern hemisphere side of the draw. Carter's injury might just open doors in the other half of the draw.

The All Blacks remain World Cup favourites. But with their star man gone, so have the certainties of the first four weeks.


  • Comment number 1.

    Great shame for Dan Carter as an undoubtedly great player who deserved the chance to crown his career with a chance at a world cup win.

    Such is the strike power in the kiwi three-quarters, provided Slade or Weepu can manage to ship the ball on, New Zealand will remain the odds on favourites to pick up the trophy. The goal kicking will be a worry for the All Blacks but score enough tries and the kicks become incidental.

  • Comment number 2.

    terrible news for new zealand,suberb news for the remaining teams,he is 2 ways about it,this a massive blow,but it wouldnt surprise me if they win the event anyway,ma'a nonu is the most underrated player in the all blacks team,only behind carter for me,plus he is as scary as quarter final picks:england,ireland(just),south africa and new zealand

  • Comment number 3.

    Very sad for him. The one stage he has yet to fully shine on and where he perhaps deserves to, and it has been stripped away from him yet again after crashing out in 07 at the quarters.

    I said to many people before the tournament that loosing Carter is the one scenario that NZ really don't want to have to face...and look what's just happened. He is the only player in the NZ team that cannot be replaced. He's easily the best fly in the world (saying that as an England fan), and is an integral part of this NZ team. Without him, they aren't as impervious - still great, but certainly not as unbeatable.

    The big thing about it is not necessarily loosing Carter, but the backup that's available. Even McCaw has pretty decent backup, not as great as the arch-poacher himself but still decent enough to fill in. I haven't seen anything from Carter's backups yet to convince me that they're solid enough. Colin Slade hasn't been that great, Stephen Donald has fallen by the wayside after some average performances and Aaron Cruden looks like he's been forced into test rugby too soon. Suddenly, 10 for NZ will turn from one of their greatest strengths to a potential area of weakness to exploit. Of course, as useless_player said, they still have awesome backs (have yet to buy the hype about SBW though, he's a very strong rangey centre with good offloading ability but not Jesus in rugby boots as the ITV commentary team have said), but Carter is a huge part of that backline. They will still score tries, but they will now lack a calm, influential head to know when to unlock the backs, when to play territory, and when to kick points. Carter had even shown he'd mastered the drop-goal, as if to say 'no more loosing by 2 points in the KO stages this time!'. I can't help but feel this could be a huge blow. NZ have gone from almost-impervious favourites to favourites with chinks in the armour. If Aus and SA can beat them with Carter, they plus perhaps some of the NH sides can do it without. Perhaps.

    One question I want to throw out there - is there any reason why NZ can't call for Nick Evans now? I know they've been very stubborn with overseas players etc, but surely now on the cusp of the WC knockout stages, when none of the NZ-based backups have proven wholly adequate, they should be at least making enquires about booking a plane for Evans? I know he's not been playing with the side for a good few seasons, and it would be a pretty huge responsibility for him to be parachuted into the first XV with your first game back being the QF of the WC, so maybe that's what's putting him off...I'm just wondering if Harlequins have a clause that basically says 'well you said you wouldn't be picking him as long as he plays for us...'. Anyone enlighten me on that?

  • Comment number 4.

    Very sad about this. Carter is the best player in the world and even though I don't support New Zealand as a rugby fan you want to see the best players in the WC. New Zealand are still formidable, but not the same team without him as we saw in Port Elizabeth recently. Also sad to see Frans Steyn out as he is also very talented.

  • Comment number 5.

    Even allowing for the team's poor form in the warm up games, on the basis of the performance against England in the final 6N game, the only two teams I felt Ireland wouldn't have realistic hopes of beating were Australia and New Zealand...

    It's as stated above, losing Dan Carter's bad enough, but what have the NZRU been thinking? They've simply developed no substitute. Ireland have two fly halves, Wales have three, England have two, Scotland had two, Australia left Matt Giteau at home, South Africa haven't even been putting Ruan Pienaar into the squad...New Zealand are the best team in the world by any measure except World Cup victories, how is it they've left themselves so vulnerable? Every other team has taken it as a given that players will get injured, the game injures people, what're they playing at? It's a shame really, the team that wins this World Cup, if it's not New Zealand themselves, will forever be tagged as not having conquered the best.

    Without a kicking game they're still capable of winning, but their attack plan becomes a lot more one-dimensional, and I can see either Wales, Ireland and South Africa beating them due to the quality of those teams' defence. The other factor is the boost to the confidence of every opponent they face from now on; even if whoever they play puts in a world class performance against Argentina, there will still be question marks over the 10 channel for the semi-final and the final, if they get there...

    Whoever wins the Ireland v Wales game has got to be licking their lips at the draw they've earned for themselves...I'd even wager James Hook's a little bit glad that penalty wasn't given, because I'd much rather the route they have in front of them than South Africa's.

    As for Ireland...YEAH!!!! Was extremely pessimistic going into this game, I rate Nick Mallett so highly, and given Ireland's tactics in previous games, I just wondered whether the two packs were going to cancel each other out. I thought there might be a danger of Irish heads dropping when the forwards ran into a brick wall, but they were outstanding without even hitting top gear. Keith Earls may turn out to be as prolific as Shane Williams, they're both so nippy and robust. McGeechan gave such a gift to Irish rugby bringing him on the Lions tour. Cian Healy stood up and was counted. Tommy Bowe's exhibiting real class. Kearney's starting to get into the groove, though he's a way to find the form of two years ago yet. Wales look great, but if Ireland get past them there's no good reason they can't win this thing. I'd have said New Zealand was that good reason before, but their aura has well and truly been shattered. GAME ON!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    Agreed about Frans Steyn, he was awesome in the last World Cup, a special player, Kirchner really doesn't compare.

  • Comment number 7.

    Bad luck for Carter - this was going to be his moment in the sun, might never happen for him now. I don't know much about Slade - but I would have thought that the NZ management must have thought about and planned for this scenario - after all it happened last time. If they haven't done so then they'll get what they deserve. The good thing about it from their point of view is that it's not happened mid game and they have time to implement plan b. In addition they remain favourites as they have home advantage and none of their main rivals are really that good at the moment. It'll be a good test of character to see how they react.

  • Comment number 8.

    Well, one imagines the absence of Carter will force the All Blacks to play to their other strengths - their ability to attack is probably unrivalled at this World Cup. In their favour, too, is the fact that none of the other contenders - Australia, South Africa, England in that order - have played particularly well. It gets better: the All Blacks come up against Argentina in their Quarter-final, and should win it easily. England face a disorganised France, Ireland will beat Wales while Australia will surely eliminate South Africa - leaving a semi-final line-up of England vs Ireland and the All Blacks vs Australia in Auckland. I think New Zealand will defeat England in the final to ensure the trophy remains there!

  • Comment number 9.

    There is no telling how worried the rest of the AB team/squad will be about 'life without Carter', but I suggest it will be a MASSIVE blow! For England fans think England 2003 without wouldn't have happened! One player CAN make the difference. As soon as they come under a bit of pressure (from Aus in the semis, is my guess!) things will start to creak and the Demon's will come out......the viewing and anticipation for us (almost!) NH neutrals is going to be exhilerating, but pity the AB fans; if they get to lift Bill in NZ, it will be a hard fought and nail shredding victory!!
    You've got to love the 'slow burning' mayhem that RWC throws up!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Could be No 8 - though Australia in the semis could be the nightmare game for NZ - nobody will better at spotting and exploiting any signs of panic!

  • Comment number 11.

    A true English sports fan's perspective on our chances in the World Cup now that we're heading into the quarters...

  • Comment number 12.

    The best replacement for Carter doesn't get a look in because he doesn't play Super 15 rugby. Nick Evans is better than Donald, Cruden and Slade put together but he'll be playing for Harlequins when the All Blacks lose in the semis in two weeks!

  • Comment number 13.

    Finally some world cup rugby here in Sweden,Scotland should of won and sadly lost the chance.England are through and what a final it would be if they met NZ

  • Comment number 14.

    The streets are always dead in Auckland. Even on a Monday morning!

    Anyway this is a test for NZ. For me Carter is their only guaranteed starter in a world 15. A lot of the other positions are up for grabs. They still have the best outside line in the world but its a matter of trust and confidence in the new #10.

  • Comment number 15.

    Sad to say that my forecast to mates before the start of the tournament that it would be won by the team that managed to keep its critical players free of injury looks to be all too true. The game at this level has become so physical, brutal even, that it’s hard to imagine that any of this level of player will avoid crippling weakness to their bodies in middle-age or younger. You could put out a pretty good side from the players that have already gone home with injuries, I’m sure that, whoever we support, we will all agree that it’s depressing for the game as a whole.

  • Comment number 16.

    Every team loses players through injury, that's the nature of the game.

    If a team relies too heavily on one player without any back up then that is the fault of the nation in question.

    In this instance, New Zealand has chosen a route (not to pick any overseas players) whether that be through some lack of acceptance about modern professional rugby or through arrogance - who knows.

    What I do know is that the second best fly half in the world had a barnstorming game against Sale yesterday. Nicky Evans as good as Dan Carter perhaps.

    So if there is any whining or chirping - I don't buy it one bit.

    It's a massive shame for Dan Carter, but it is just one player out of 15.

  • Comment number 17.

    The ABs strength is their attacking flair, something that both Cruden and Slade have in abundance. The only problem is that this isn't enough to win you tight games in the knock out stages of the World Cup. For that you need test experience and the ability to control a game. Cruden and Slade will be found wanting in this department when the pressure comes on (particularly if they face SA in the semis with their high pressure game plan).

    I think I speak for all rugby fans when I say that our heart goes out to DC. From a personal point of view he must be devastated and I can only hope that the hometown mentality and strong family ties he has will see him through this tough time.

  • Comment number 18.

    For too long the AB selectors have relied on Carter, McCaw and more recently Read and now all three have been injured. There have been players as good or almost - Holah, Evans and Messam but they have not, unlike the chosen three, been given the golden run of games and support. So that management selection style has now come to torment them.

    Nicky Evans will not be used as; 1. it violates the rules laid down by the NZRFU and 2. he is an unknown factor after several years in the NH. Luke McCalister returned to NZ and was unable to successfully revive his AB career - it was felt he had regressed. From viewing his recent form though, Evans looks to be on the top of his game.

    Its just possible that this injury to Carter will galvanise the rest instead of maybe leaving to the stars. Players like Kaino, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams and Nonu are emerging as essential playmakers too so we shall see.

    It is a shame for Dan Carter as he was hitting a purple patch of form and he was injured at the last Cup at a crictical time in Cardiff in 2007 too.

  • Comment number 19.

    "Most Kiwis had never heard of the left adductor longus tendon, let alone known that it can tear when you're doing something as simple as kicking a few practice goals. They do know."

    Know or now? Either way that's really sloppy. Doesn't anyone proof read this stuff?

  • Comment number 20.

    Re to-days story about more England players being "reprimanded". Am I being paranoid or is there a conspiracy of drip, drip stories about English Rugby players? Have the rest of the world suddenly become saints?!!!!! The woman/girl took some time to realise she was upset - DOH!!!! Did the event really need three weeks to come to our attention or was it timed to follow the sequence of stories released one a week? Methinks something smells!! Do they really feel that England are a threat???

  • Comment number 21.

    Poor DC & Fran Steyn. You have to feel for them.

    Personally I think the ABs can absorb this loss better than SA. I've been to 6 games in Auckland/NH this RWC and I haven't seen much to challenge NZ. Especially since NZ hasn't lost at Eden Pk since 94, I find it interesting this point hasn't been raised more? Ive only truly appreciated the home vs away factor after watching the round ball game. Without wearing my black eye patch, is there a team that has stood up that tall (maybe Ireland but no) and said we're going to be the team to beat the All Blacks here when no one else has for the last 17 yrs? Sure it will happen but not any time soon based on what I've seen to dated.

    England are a distant 3rd in the home nations, France are France (no comment), SA don't like being bullied, I'm still thinking Australia are the biggest threat but they hate Eden Park more than most.

    Anyway gutted for DC and all the other boys who have trained so hard for the finals but have taken a knock. Bit like Messi, Ronaldo or Bendtner missing out on the football world cup.

  • Comment number 22.

    #21 - Haha, Bendtner missing the World Cup improves the competition!

  • Comment number 23.

    Carter be out gives england a better chance so it's all good.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hasn't every team in the latter stages (except perhaps France) now lost at least one linchpin player to injury? It happens and if Henry hadn't a plan B in place, shame on him.

  • Comment number 25.

    It is a personal tragedy for Carter and I hope he recovers well.

    As far as the tournament goes, it seems to me the real crunching test for the All Blacks will be a semi-final against South Africa or Australia - for neither of those teams, especially South Africa, will do anything but fight to the death.

    If NZ come through that, maybe then they will be so mentally drained that England can catch them off guard and sneak the win!!

    For whatever the finer details, England are winning games and doing what needs to be done....rather like the great German football teams of ....well, always!

  • Comment number 26.

    DERedcoat - I think France lost Screla but having said that, you did say lynch pin.

    France also lost a couple of injuries before the world cup, Lievremont has also lost his marbles.

    Jyonda - I completely aggree with you. First and four most these posts should reflect good grammer and not rugby opinions. Excellent spot of the bad use of know or now, and I particularly loved you're rugby commments. Oh, hang on - there weren't any.

    You must be having a really bad day if your sole post to a rugby blog is to pick up incorrect use of english.

    I hope things perk up sooner.

    England are still in the world cup after all.

  • Comment number 27.

    What a story this RWC is producing. 4 weeks of pool play which has thrown up so much drama both on and off the field - and the quality of footie has been reasonably decent too.

    Real tragedy for DC. He'll never get this opportunity again. Some people asked about NZ rugby's failure to produce quality backup. The problem is DC is a one off. He represents the two schools of NZ 5/8's. Whereas in the past NZ produced players like Grant Fox who has strong kicking and tactical games or other 5/8's like Frano Botica and Carlos Spencer who had strong running skills. DC has them all.

    As for other 5/8's, Evans, Donald and Slade are in the Fox mould, McCallister and Cruden in the Spencer mould. Most have not been able to fully adapt to the AB style of play. In fact, probably a league flyhalf like Benji Marshall would be more suited to the AB game.

    I really hope Cruden gets a chance. He's had good form all year and is very good at unlocking defences. If he's there then Weepu has to play as he's good at imposing himself. Nonu should get the nod outside Cruden to help guide him.

    Looking forward to the Ire-Wales and SA-Aust QFs. Ire and SA look very well balanced. Really impressed with the Welsh loosies and midfield. It's too bad Quade Cooper threw in his lot with Aust. Another one that got away from the NZRU.

    Amazing what's happened to France. Major implosion. Still, they're so unpredictable they may give Eng a scare.

    Despite Tonga's win the other day, the Pacific Island teams have disappointed. They almost have too much structure in their games now. The first time one of them unshackle themselves from their tactical straitjackets in this RWC and they secure a great win against Fra. Other than that, and maybe Manu Samoa's opening game, their wasn't much else. A shame, because their fantastic fans deserved more.

  • Comment number 28.

    To Ann, Number 20: Take your point about the delay getting into the press, but if you read the detail, the way the players behaved is all a bit pathetic. These blokes earn way more than some lass in a hotel, who has to put up with their juvenile behaviour. If she "over reacts" she is seen as being a bad sport rather than a professional doing her job.

    The fault lies primarily with Haskell, who for all his demands that the squad "name and shame" under performers, looks even more stupid now than we already knew he was.

    But blame also rests with management and with Moody who sent the woman up to Haskell's room to get the walkie talkie, knowing that some nonsense would likely occur. His statement should have been, "James, for heaven's sake, stop being a prat and bring the lady's property down to the lobby. You are making us all look like d**kheads". Moral high ground taken and no chance for stuff to get worse. Also his authority as Captain established in a WC where he has not been on the field as much as he would like. Some people need to step up and behave like grown ups.

  • Comment number 29.

    NZ have a couple of weeks to sort out whether they go with Slade, Cruden or Weepu as, like today, whatever team they put out against Argentina will have too much. I get the impression that Weepu will be Henry's starting Scrummie all the way now so that means Slade or Cruden will wear the 10 jersey in the quarters/semi.

    Cruden has been tipped for big things but had lost his way recently but playing with Manawatu in the NPC has been good for him and he's looking like the player the Hurricanes saw initially.

    Now I know it's a big step up from playing in the NPC (2nd tier at that though the way the leagues are set up they play the top tier as often) but if this guy can steer Manawatu about the park then he can do the same with Nonu, Smith, Jane, Guildford, Dagg et al behind him and Reid and Weepu right in front keeping him right.

    Goal kicking not his strongest forte but Weepu no stranger to that role and if you're looking for a man full of confidence and on top of his game then Cruden the man.

    I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him get the nod ahead of Slade against Argentina, especially as Slade didn't have greatest game this morning. That said, Henry is very much a safety first coach- why else would SBW not be playing every game?- and if he chooses conservative then Slade will be that man.

    I hope he goes Cruden.

  • Comment number 30.

    The real loss of DC will be measured how much of it's playing potential NZ can achieve going forward in this RWC.

    The team's strengths lie in their mobility, individual skill and ability to control game tempo. Technique plays a huge role too, especially at ricks and mauls. DC's playmaker role was pivotal in keeping the AB play patterns humming.

    How to compensate? It may be reducing the 5/8's playmaking role and sharing those duties with the halfbacks and with the 2nd 5/8. If that happens then Weepu and Nonu must play - although halfback is a weak link inthe ABs.

    One thing's for certain. The ABs can't revert to a slow 10 man style of rugby. They don't have the personnel to do that.

  • Comment number 31.

    It's a real shame for Dan Carter. As a rugby fan I want to see the best players in the world on the game's biggest stage.

    It does make the prospect of a team other than NZ winning the WC more likely, which only adds to the competition.

    As was pointed out above, the teams which manage their injuries best will do the best. To me, SA are starting to look quite ominous. Plus, of all the teams into the quarters they have the greatest toughness, physically and mentally. Though England and Ireland seem to be developing nicely in that respect too.

    Too close to call I think, but my gut feeling fancies the Boks to grind it out, though I would love to see any of the Northern Hemisphere teams lift the trophy. Such a pity Scotland seem to have hit the wall in terms of development.

  • Comment number 32.

    Just saw Comment 31.

    Noah, that's exactly what they did against Australia in the last tri nations, and they showed they can do it well.

  • Comment number 33.

    Its bad for the tournament that such a classy operator like Dan Carter has had to withdraw. For me, it was a massive shame Juan Hernandez was ruled out in August. Frans Steyn missing the rest of the tournament just caps it all off. Horrible.

  • Comment number 34.

    Weepu is the man to replace Carter, he'll do the kicking job well. Best of all, AB are a complete team not relying on just one player.

  • Comment number 35.

    One shout out I have is for Wales. They're playing really near their maximum potential and looking fantastic. An example of a very well-coached team. Ireland fall into that category too.

  • Comment number 36.

    Nick Evans...
    Maybe the eligibility rule is now seen as an error in NZ!
    I bet Nick Evans is kicking himself!
    If he'd become English.....

  • Comment number 37.

    Personally I see it all as a bit of an overreaction. With DC, NZ are five stars. Without him they're 4.5. They will still beat whichever team comes in their way, albeit possibly with a jot more tension that the home crowd would have liked.

  • Comment number 38.

    Don't be surprised to see NZ switch Nonu and Smith between 2nd 5/8 and centre in the QF. Pretty much play an inside/outside centre game. Their experience takes on so much more importance now that DC's not there. Expect to see them directing much of the backplay. In the forwards, Kaino will have to shoulder more responsibility, along with Woodcock and Thorne.

    Expect to see Muliana now more involved, possibly from the reserves bench. His experience is invaluable.

  • Comment number 39.

    Very sad for Carter, who seems to be a decent sort of bloke as well as a brilliant fly half (don't you just hate some people?) but I am with the folk who see the All Blacks as a bit more than a one (or two or three) man team. I fully expect them still to win it.

  • Comment number 40.

    The loss of Dan Carter is enormous. He is irreplacable as the world's premier player. I think saying the NZRU have been foolish in not developing a back up 10 is off the mark by a long way. There aren't any players in the world who come close to Carter at 10. Cooper may have a box of tricks, but his defence, calmness under pressure and organisational skills are not in same league. without front foot ball he goes missing. Steyn, Sexton/ROG, Flood, Wilkinson, Priestland do not have the all round skills.
    Slade moved to Highlanders to get more game time this year but was injured (2 broken jaws - how unlucky?), Cruden was in poor team at Hurricanes, Brett at Blues not good enough and Donald worse. Cruden will get better, Blyendaal needs few years. Not so easy to replace world class player as straight swap. The rest of the squad will hopefully up their game. Massive loss for World cup to lose so many standout players (Carter, Steyn, Mitchell, Palu, Lobbe).

  • Comment number 41.

    It is a massive shame that anyone is so cruelly denied a chance to compete in the biggest stage in world rugby. It is also a massive disappointment that rugby fans are denied the chance to see a truly great player play on the biggest stage.

    But come on New Zealand you aint the favourites for nothing!!!! As a nation you live for rugby, you have produced player after worldclass player and brilliant team after brilliant team.

    Dan Carter out but you still have in the squad McCaw, Nonu, Mealamu, Thorn, Read, Muliaina, Hore, Smith, Williams and Dagg!!!!!!!

    Its as bad as the sentiment around Wilkinson for England. England's winning team contained Leonard, Vickery, Thompson, Kay, Dallaglio, Back, Hill, Greenwood, Lewsey, Robinson, Dawson!!!

    One man does not make a team no matter how good he is!! The best player in the world can not win games if the forwards aren't winning the set pieces and being first at the break down or the backs are dropping the ball or are not being in the right place.

  • Comment number 42.

    This talk of NZ having a much harder chance of winning the WC seems to suggest they are a one man team. "Carter's gone, there goes our chances!"

    It's never good to lose a top member of your team but you just have to get on with it.
    The thought that NZ are somehow a weaker side is nonsense. In fact one of the reasons DC is so good is that he plays off the back of a very strong set of forwards. Let's see how good he does playing 10 off the back of a Japanese pack against the Boks?
    Before anyone dives into the ruck, similar comments were often made about JW when England were on top.

    I feel for DC as he comes across as a nice bloke but not for NZ. All this talk about not being able to win without Carter makes you wonder why the rest of the teams turned up for this WC. We should have just handed them the trophy and said," well you've been the best team going around for a while,here take this!"

    They're not unbeatable, the French and Australians showed that...even with Carter!

  • Comment number 43.


    You said it better than me!

  • Comment number 44.

    Another option may be to play Weepu at 5/8 with Ellis at halfback. Bring on Cruden in 2nd half with either Weepu dropping to halfback or keeping Ellis on.

    Weepu is a good option because of his defence. DC has amazing defence for a 5/8 and much of the AB turnover opportunities took advantage of that.

    Slade didn't take full advantage of his opportunity v Canada. If they didn't have full faith in him before, then i doubt they do now. Wayne Smith has a few sleepless nights ahead of him.

  • Comment number 45.

    See, it's all very well saying he's only one player, that the ABs should and will get on with it, and that they're still littered with players that brook no debate about their place in a world XV. All of those things are true. But it ignores the fact that for most teams, the ABs included, the fly-half is the key player. Everyone else may play well, but it's rare that a team plays with fluidity if their 10's having a shocker.

    He's the first receiver, so he has to direct the backs, run hard, draw his man and deliver the killer pass. He's the primary tactical kicker, and usually the goal kicker along with it. Not to mention that in defence, his channel is repeatedly targeted by opposition loose forwards, so at the very least he has to have good technique and a hell of a lot of bravery to slow them down if he's not able to make the full tackle.

    The point is, the potential for game changing mistakes is probably greater in the fly half position than any other on the field. To illustrate my point, look what happened to them in the last World Cup; after Carter went off injured against France, all composure went out the window. To say the ABs are in anywhere near as comfortable a position as they were is wishful thinking.

    As for Ireland playing to their potential...there's more to come from the backs, and we've yet to see the best of Heaslip. I think they're still a way off top gear, they missed a host of chances against Italy before they put the game away. Beating a southern hemishpere team Down Under for the first time (I think I'm right in saying that) will have done them a serious favour in the confidence stakes, and I reckon Wales just might have peaked; Ireland have that little bit more experience in key areas, and as I say, certain players still have a good bit of headroom for improvement.

  • Comment number 46.

    As for England, there's no conspiracy, they're young men who do and say silly things at times, and the British tabloids, whose reputation for lurid sensationalism preceeds them worldwide, are attempting in every way possible to make a parasitic fast buck from the country's interest in the World Cup. It's barely a ripple in a teacup. Martin Johnson's absolutely right to adopt the mildly exasperated tone, which will inevitably be interpreted as being directed at the players, but is clearly and obviously directed at the media and their cheap inflation of non-issues.

  • Comment number 47.

    Shame about DC; he is truely a great player. Good job for Quins that Conor has thrown Nev's mobile into the Thames. Something is seriuously wrong when the world's second best fly half is not at the World Cup

  • Comment number 48.

    Rugby is a hard physical confrontation, ironic that Carter is out following a training injury. Sad for him personally because this is probably his last chance to win the cup, but all sides suffer with injuries at awkward times and the ABs are not immune from this risk.

    What I do find interesting is the disproportionate level of NZ panic after an injury to one player when they believe their team have virtually already been annointed World Champions. How can a nation's expectations rest so much on the fitness of one man?

    If McCaw goes crook the kiwis are going to get really twitchy!

    England are technically still in the tournament but only because neither the Scots or Argentina were able to finish them off when they were there for the taking. France look bereft and clueless, Lievremont is a clown and seems to have succesfully alienated the entire squad. Whether they can be bothered to turn up and play for a coach who is leaving after their next loss remains to be seen. I suspect not, they'll want it over with as soon as possible.

  • Comment number 49.

    No-one in New Zealand believed that the All Blacks were Champions elect. The Press would like you to believe this to be the case but it is not. Monsters are created for the enjoyment of the slow-witted.

    There has been a huge reaction to Dan's loss. The idea that we can simply replace someone of his calibre without a moment's reflection ( sober or otherwise ) is the product of a dull mind indeed.

    Not only is he one of the greatest first five's ever, but at 29 this may be his last shot. People are concerned about that too - how he must feel.

    Added to other calamaties, both self caused and accidental, over the last 24 years and the nation is perhaps allowed a moment to think " why him and why now".

    Then they'll get past that.

    Then they'll front up.

    Then hopefully they'll induce some panic of their own in others.

  • Comment number 50.

    Come on, whoever plays 10 for the blacks is going to get a bucket full of quick ball, that he can either kick down the field with all the time in the world or throw to Ma Nonu and Conrad.

    Its got to be easier than playing 10 for anyone else.

  • Comment number 51.

    Half the problem New Zealand have is that, quite rightly they wax lyrical about Daniel Carter. Since the likes of Nick Evans moved to England, Mehrtens retired and Spencer lost his form, all other incumbents to the pivotal role have been tried, tested and failed.

    Slade, like many has been brilliant at provincial level for the Higlanders, Stephen Brett, who was once seen as Carter's successor has lost his way at the Auckland Blues, and Stephen Donald has been forzen out since that moment against Australia.

    Anyone else agree that the All Blacks need the creativity that Carter brings to the side. Although i can see Slade starting against the Pumas at the weekend, an interesting option would be to see how Sonny Bill Williams plays at 10. Not the right level to try him out there i know, however his playmaking skills and skill on the ball make it food for thought!

  • Comment number 52.

    A close Friend of mine, who's also a massive AB's fan, has declared that without Carter this won't be their year Slade being on the recieving end of much of his ire. they're still a great side without him but their fans look to him as a pivotal player along with McCaw. he feels an England S.A. final is on the cards

  • Comment number 53.

    For a fleeting moment I also thought about SBW at first five but then came back to reality. We've moved things about before knockout games in other tournaments and have come a cropper.

    I still reckon Weepu has the kicking game and the go forward to plug the gap pretty well. The trouble is he is also a better half back than the current options too.

    Poor old Colin Slade fluffed his lines against Canada and I don't think he'll recover. Stephen Donald had a few cracks atfirst five and the brain freeze in the Bledisloe was but one of a number of mistakes. Cruden might be interesting - maybe give him the slot against Argentina and change if necessary ( and we should assume nothing against the Pumas ).

  • Comment number 54.

    Very sad news about Carter. It's a testimony to the man's brilliance that his injury has forced everyone to reassess the outcome of the World Cup.
    As an Irish supporter, this news should be welcoming but, as a sports fan, it is terribly sad. The letter wins hands down.
    This guy does everything, both on and off the pitch, with a touch of class. RWC 2011's loss.

  • Comment number 55.

    That Australian pundit on Fox (Marto I think) said categorically, "Without Carter NZ cannot win the WC!" "Without Ritchie....maybe. Without Carter no!"
    "They must have Carter!" and of course he should know, he played the game.......and is now a pundit.

    I think NZ are very worried, and everyone is going to target their 10.

    Get the replacement off his game.............oooyeah!

  • Comment number 56.

    And that's not all, apparently 'Suzie the waitress' emigrated to NZ a year and a half ago...

  • Comment number 57.

    Oh my oh my

    Now we have a press conference with Wayne Smith and two ABs Richard Kahui being one and he states " with out the ABs at the 2015 it would not be a legit RWC" so what does that make 1987????

    I know what the SA boys say!!!

  • Comment number 58.

    I believe that Francois Steyn is a bigger loss for SA than Carter for NZ, the reason being is that Steyn offers so much more as a centre or specialist full back/fly half with his long distance kicks. I thought along with the du plessis brothers he has been SA's best player this tourmanent and will be hard to replace!!
    Carters injury yes a blow,but plenty more quality players are also being injured in this world cup!!!

  • Comment number 59.

    JRDMRugbyMania, not sure Steyn (as good a player as he is) is that big a loss for the Saffers, JDVilliers will come in and probably at least as a better job. The real loss for the Boks is Juan Smit. The don't seem to have a top blindside to cover him. Burger is no Blind side though he is trying to fill in there, but they are unusally comming up short at ruck time.

  • Comment number 60.

    Really, it tarnishes the victory anyone else gains against the ABs. If you were going to beat them, you'd want them to be at full strangth, you'd want the glory of knowing the did their absolute best and had no excuses. Then again, Carter or no Carter, a win against the ABs for anyone is rare enough that it'll be remembered for a long time, doubly so for the 6N sides.

  • Comment number 61.

    I love Stey, fantastic player who really lit up the last World Cup, but #59's right, the Bokke have cover. Morne Steyn knocks over 50m penalties, Jean De Villiers helped win a Lions series from 12, JP and Habana will always threaten with ball in hand and Hougaard's not been at all bad.

  • Comment number 62.

    I agree Juan Smit is a massive loss for the boks and have always rated him internationally and for the cheetas!!
    I just feel SA will loose a degree of intensity from losing Steyn. Yes De Villiars can come in but will he be able to pack a punch as good as Francois! They are however looking very sharp and I was impressed with the win over Samoa, that sort of physical battle should serve them well against the Aussies! A lot of the key players seem to be peaking at the right time and if they win the RWC the coach was right to rest his "A" team throughout the tri nations.
    but back to Carter, maybe I have been misunderstood, he is by far and away the best no10 in world rugby but I just feel nz produce so much quick ball and have strength throughout there team that his absence (although huge) may not stop them lifting the cup come the end of the month.

  • Comment number 63.

    JRDMRugbyMania, I gree with that, I am joking when I say playing 10 for the Blacks looks that easy I often feel that I could play there, just catch the ball and have all day to give it to Nonu. But Seriously, I think if Hook, Sexton or Flood were playing there we'd be lauding them all just as much.

  • Comment number 64.

    Not sure that Carter getting injured tarnishes a WC victory. In 87 and 91 SA did not even play. It is the way things go. I don't think that it tarnished NZ or OZ's victories in those years. Rugby is a physical game and there are always going to be injuries to teams esp in tournaments. I would doubt that any WC winning team has had a 100 per cent fit first team lineup for a whole WC. It is how those teams have dealt with it that has made them WC winners.

  • Comment number 65.

    Davico, I agree!!
    At the end of the day if NZ don't win the RWC they can't blame an injury to DC as the reason! I personally believe they have been far too reliant upon his services and ignored or neglected the chance to develop another few quality number 10's at test level.


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