Recuperating Slade bides his All Blacks time
Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett ... and Colin Slade.
Twelve months ago Slade was just weeks away from officially joining fellow Canterbury first five-eighth Carter in the All Blacks' World Cup squad, having scrabbled his way back into contention after breaking his jaw earlier in the year.
Now Slade, who suffered a compound fracture of the tibia bone of his left leg playing for the Highlanders in late March, knows his chances of winning a place on the All Blacks' northern tour, which begins against Scotland in Edinburgh on November 13, are remote.
Carter and Cruden are certainties to tour and Barrett, following his accomplished effort when he replaced the injured Cruden in the third test against Ireland in late June, looms as the third candidate.
Uncertain whether he is a chance to play in Canterbury's ITM Cup defence, which starts on August 24 and ends on October 27 if they progress through to the premiership final, Slade has again been forced to play the role of the passive patient.
Three weeks ago he had an operation in Dunedin to remove some screws which were inserted after he snapped his leg, and to "tidy-up" the ankle which stiffened-up after spending so long inside his moon boot.
The crutches have been discarded, he is starting to walk and hopes to be running in around a month.
In the meantime he will try to re-build his wasted calf muscle which has suffered from the time encased in the moon boot.
"I have basically lost my calf muscle, so I am trying to get some strength and power back into that to the point where I can push-off and run," Slade said.
"It's too early to say whether I will play for Canterbury - there's no time-line. I don't know how quickly the strength is going to come back. I have an intensive rehabilitation programme and then have to concentrate on getting my fitness back."
Although he met with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen a couple of months after his injury, and last Sunday's press release for the naming of the 28-man squad for the Rugby Championship pointedly noted Slade was not considered because of injury, the injured playmaker has been left to recuperate.
"Steve just wished me all the best in getting right as quickly as possible. He knows, and I know, there is a long way to go before I come back. I am still looking to get out there as soon as possible, I still have that desire to play."
Last year Slade surged past Stephen Donald and Cruden when selected for the World Cup squad to deputise for Carter who subsequently ruptured his groin before the final pool match - a similar injury suffered by Slade in the quarter-final against Argentina.
Cruden was then brought in as cover before his knee injury in the final allowed Donald to complete a fairy-tale return by kicking the crucial penalty in the All Blacks' 8-7 win over France.
Slade's injury and Donald's shift to England has enabled Cruden and Barrett to elevate themselves behind Carter, but chewing his knuckles in self-pity as he watched them in action has not been a part of Slade's brief.
"I have just got to worry about myself. I have been watching for so long - there is literally nothing I can do about anything.
"It could drive you nuts watching others do well but I haven't been like that at all. I know I will get my opportunity when I get back out on to the field."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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