Home' The Wellingtonian : October 27th 2011 Contents 23
THE WELLINGTONIAN, OCTOBER 27, 2011
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Donald, the hero no-one spotted
Take that: Stephen Donald, who kicked the World Cup-winning penalty. Photo: FAIRFAX
Stephen Donald epitomised
why New Zealand deserved
to win the Rugby World
The Waikato first five-eighth
ended the World Cup final wear-
ing what looked like Aaron
Cruden s tiny jersey and doing the
job that had long been earmarked
for Daniel Carter. He was a most
World Cup boss Martin Sned-
den spoke for months about a
stadium of four million and for a
while during the tournament it
seemed we d need most of them to
play for the All Blacks.
Carter (back, then groin), his
replacement Colin Slade (groin),
Mils Muliaina (hamstring, then
shoulder), Israel Dagg (stomach,
then thigh), Richie McCaw (calf
and foot), Richard Kahui (ham-
string), Cory Jane (head), Adam
Thomson (ankle, then knee), Zac
Guildford (hamstring) and Kieran
Read (ankle) all suffered serious
injuries during the tournament.
But every time one player got
knocked over, someone else was
able to step up and take his place.
Donald s effort in that unforget-
table final against France
emphasised the point. The first-
five kingpin was going to be
Carter. When he went down, it
was supposed to be Slade.
Suddenly Cruden was told not
to go to Disneyland for a holiday
because he was needed, and Don-
ald stopped whitebaiting to join
the All Blacks squad.
In the final, Cruden was
invalided off the field with a knee
injury and it was Donald who car-
ried New Zealand hopes. Donald!
He d played 23 times for the All
Blacks since 2008 and, by general
consent, been found wanting.
Now it was up to him. Well, he
kicked the match-winning pen-
alty, squeezing the ball inside the
right-hand upright, and controlled
the game well in those thrilling
Reflecting on the All Blacks
World Cup campaign, surely we
need to thank coach Graham
Henry for all that rotating in
We hated it, of course, but it
meant that when his players got
injured during the tournament, he
always had someone groomed and
ready to step up.
It was incredible how injury-hit
the All Blacks were.
When the 1987 All Blacks won
their World Cup, seven of their
team played every match and
another six were rested for one
game. Once the 1987 tournament
began, they lost no players to
Of the 2011 squad, only Jerome
Kaino, Owen Franks and Tony
Woodcock started all seven games.
Home advantage is often
mentioned in sport, and it was
there for all to see in the final.
France were so good they
deserved to win and they had
every right to be devastated after-
The All Blacks were carried
through those final torrid 40
minutes by the crowd of 61,000,
and by the knowledge that
another couple of million of their
countrymen and women were
watching elsewhere in New Zea-
land, willing them on.
Not to mention hundreds of
thousands more who tuned
in all around the world.
It would have been unthinkable
if the All Blacks had lost.
Until the final they d played
virtually all the quality rugby dur-
ing the tournament. They were
the form team going into the
World Cup and unbackable
favourites by the time of the final.
But that s the nature of top
sport. If it was absolutely predict-
able, they wouldn t have to play.
In the end it took Stephen Don-
ald, heavily criticised and largely
written off, wearing a jersey that
was far too small, to make the
dream come through.
Henry and his co-selectors
plotted and planned. Richie
McCaw, Brad Thorn, Kieran
Read, Owen Franks, Jerome
Kaino, Ma a Nonu, Conrad Smith
and the rest were all courageous.
They wouldn t have got over the
line, though, if it hadn t been for a
player who d long ago been discar-
ded, and the combined willpower
of four million New Zealanders.
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