First-five Colin Slade gets set for Sydney - again
Colin Slade has suddenly found himself wondering how he will confront the ghosts of Sydney.
When the Crusaders first five-eighth walked out of ANZ Stadium following last weekend's Super Rugby grand final defeat to the Waratahs he would have been content to see a tank division surround the Olympic Park arena and blow it off the face of the earth.
Now he is contemplating a return to the ground for next weekend's test match between the All Blacks and Wallabies.
Dan Carter's cracked fibia bone, an injury suffered in the first half of the 33-32 loss to the Waratahs, has resulted in Slade being recalled to the All Blacks as a replacement for his Crusaders team-mate.
Although Slade won't be named in the side to face the Australians for Bledisloe I, with Aaron Cruden likely to start at No 10 and Beauden Barrett listed in the reserves, he is expected to travel to Sydney as insurance for the two playmakers.
When Slade last saw the inside of the visitors' changing shed at ANZ Stadium the disconsolate Crusaders were trying to blink back of tears of frustration as they contemplated the defeat.
"I suppose I am not in any hurry to go back there and relive any of those memories," Slade said. "But it [the All Blacks] is a different team and will have a different feel to it. And it would be a chance to erase those demons from last weekend."
Slade's memories of playing at ANZ Stadium for the All Blacks are much happier; in 2010 he replaced Aaron Cruden in the 61st minute as the New Zealanders rallied from being down 13 points to win 23-22.
The injury to Carter, which is expected to keep him sidelined for at least a month, allows Slade to return after being dropped from the Rugby Championship squad. Coach Steve Hansen carried Slade for the England series in June but he was sacrificed when Carter returned from his sabbatical.
Slade, 26, said getting brought back into the All Blacks didn't negate the pain of losing the grand final.
"No, it doesn't really. I'm still pretty gutted about it - that we couldn't finish off a great year. I suppose we have to put a fullstop at the end of it at some time.
"But, yes, you can move forward and focus on the All Blacks. I'm not really [sure] what I am in there for, I suppose; whether it is holding tackle bags or what. I will just go up and train hard. And, at the end of the day, while it's an injury to Dan it is a chance for me to go up there and be a part of that setup."
While Waratahs first-five Bernard Foley destroyed the Crusaders' party by kicking the late 45m penalty, Slade couldn't help but respect the way he kept his nerve.
"When he first hit it, I didn't think he hit it too well. But it went over and it was a hell of a kick in a pressure situation.
"As a kicker you put yourself in that position and that is what you want to do - to kick goals. Credit for him because he did it."
- The Press
Which three first-fives would you have taken on the All Blacks' northern tour?