All Blacks rally behind Slade
Auckland - While New Zealand reacted to the Rugby World Cup-ending injury to Dan Carter as something akin to a national disaster, the All Blacks rallied around his understudy Colin Slade.
The loss of star playmaker Carter has dominated the New Zealand news since he suffered a serious groin injury on Saturday with many questioning the ability of the novice Slade to fill his boots.
But All Blacks backs coach Wayne Smith led the Slade fan club on Tuesday, saying the team's expectations were really high and that, despite Carter's absence, "we haven't altered the bar at all".
Smith said Slade had similar strengths to the ace pivot "so plans remain the same, expectations are exactly the same, belief of the squad is exactly the same. We don't see anything's changed."
In New Zealand, where rugby is treated almost like a national religion, there is desperation across the country for the team to lift the World Cup for the first time in 24 years.
Although the All Blacks are the most successful team in the history of the sport, the only time they have won the World Cup was when they hosted the inaugural tournament in 1987.
The 29-year-old Carter, an astute onfield general and veteran of 85 Tests, was seen as the rugby messiah who would change that, but Smith said the team had just as much faith in Slade, 23, who has a mere nine internationals behind him.
"He's got huge credibility in the squad and there's a lot of belief in him. In my experience if you walk in the company of people who believe in you you're going to achieve," he said ahead of New Zealand's quarter-final against Argentina here on Sunday.
All Blacks back-row Kieran Read said the team felt for Carter who was "a massive part" of the squad but had confidence in Slade to fill the demanding role.
"He's a pretty cool customer. He's got a level head on his shoulders and he's done an outstanding job last week (against Canada) and he'll handle it."
Although Aaron Cruden, who played six Tests for the All Blacks last year, has been added to the squad following Carter's withdrawal, Smith gave no guarantees he would get any game time.
Scrumhalf Piri Weepu who has played a lot of Super rugby in the No 10 jersey is the likely backup to Slade, a role he has filled twice this year.
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