Surprised Donald ready to tackle World Cup

Last updated 20:20 11/10/2011
Stephen Donald
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax Media
DREAM COME TRUE: Stephen Donald is relishing the opportunity to possibly play a part in the World Cup.

Relevant offers

All Blacks

Brian O'Driscoll says Dan Carter key to All Blacks’ hopes of retaining World Cup Teens in court over Leon MacDonald rugby shirt burglary Wayne Smith: All Blacks can improve to stay ahead of the pack Sonny Bill Williams: Code-hoping cool for sportsmen Wayne Smith takes on defence for All Blacks coaching return Ma'a Nonu heading for France after Rugby World Cup Wayne Smith set for return to All Blacks for World Cup defence Brodie Retallick the All Blacks' driving force in 2014 Rugby-free holiday for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen Awe and envy in Europe over Dan Carter's lucrative contract with Racing Metro

Stephen Donald almost missed his call-up to New Zealand's World Cup squad while out on a fishing trip but is now determined to make the most of the unexpected opportunity.

The 27-year-old was called up by coach Graham "Ted" Henry on Monday in place of Colin Slade, the second All Black flyhalf to be invalided out of the tournament with a groin injury after the totemic Dan Carter.

It was a remarkable turnaround for a player who has always polarised opinion in New Zealand and whose international career most thought was over after he was ommitted from the original 30-man party for the tournament.

Sitting next to Hosea Gear, who has also just joined the squad as a replacement for injured fullback Mils Muliaina, Donald said he never gave up hope.

"I was down the Waikato River whitebaiting," he said when asked how he got the call.

"I think Ted had missed me a couple of times and then I finally got a call from Milsy (Muliaina) and he said 'start answering your phone you idiot' so that was sort of the message I needed.

"I was fairly surprised, obviously I never gave up the dream, but I was fairly surprised considering what's happened," he added.

"I've had a good month off and like everyone else have enjoyed watching the World Cup. Obviously I watched it thinking 'jeez I'd love to be a part of it' and now that opportunity potentially is here."

The opportunity to win his 23rd cap could come as early as Sunday when the All Blacks take on Australia at Eden Park in the World Cup semifinals.

Donald is likely to start on the bench as back-up to Aaron Cruden, who was called up as a squad replacement for Carter and got his chance in last weekend's quarterfinal against Argentina when Slade was injured.

"You've got to remember that two weeks ago, Aaron Cruden was playing around on a skateboard and then last week, after 33 minutes, he was in a World Cup quarterfinal," said assistant coach Wayne Smith, adding that halfback Piri Weepu's ability to play at 10 was unlikely to be tested.

"Piri's been steering us pretty well from nine and I think it would be a big call to change that, so that might give you a bit of insight," he said.

"Both of these players have a great deal of experience, they've come back into it and we're really happy to have players of this quality to bring in."

Donald was part of the wider training group that all teams maintain in case of injury to squad members but Smith conceded that, with Cruden and Donald now called up, their stocks of flyhalves were now exhausted.

Ad Feedback

"Clearly if there was another injury, we'd have to find someone," he said.

Gear said while he was delighted to get the call, his first thoughts were for Muliaina, whose shoulder injury was sustained as he was winning his 100th cap.

"It's quite overwhelming, but I think the first thing that came to mind was the pain that Milsy was feeling," he said.

"Obviously having your dream and everything taken away from you, I've felt that and that's what I felt straight away."

- Reuters

Special offers
Opinion poll

Who was the best-performed All Blacks forward on the northern tour?

Dane Coles

Nathan Harris

Keven Mealamu

Wyatt Crockett

Charlie Faumuina

Ben Franks

Owen Franks

Joe Moody

Brodie Retallick

Luke Romano

Jeremy Thrush

Patrick Tuipulotu

Sam Whitelock

Sam Cane

Jerome Kaino

Richie McCaw

Liam Messam

Kieran Read

Vitor Vito

Vote Result

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content