Rugby World Cup 2011
Call-up leaves Donald reeling
Stephen Donald (AFP)
Auckland -Stephen Donald says he was unwinding down by the Waikato River fishing when the SOS call came from through from the All Blacks to become their fourth fly-half of the World Cup.
New Zealand have had wretched luck with number tens at the tournament, losing first-choice playmaker Dan Carter and his understudy Colin Slade, both with groin injuries, and fully testing the deep Kiwi talent pool.
Aaron Cruden is expected to be named at fly-half when New Zealand unveil their semi-final team on Friday to play Australia at Auckland's Eden Park on Sunday.
Donald, who is bound for Bath in the English Premiership after the World Cup, is back in the All Black fold after missing out on the initial 30-man squad and could yet play a role if misfortune befalls Cruden.
"Fairly surprised, obviously I never gave up the dream, but I was fairly surprised considering what's happened," Donald said Tuesday.
"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."
Donald said he was whitebait fishing when he received the call to reinforce the All Blacks.
"I was down the Waikato River whitebaiting (fishing)," he said.
"I think 'Ted' (coach Graham Henry) had missed me a couple of times and then I finally got a call from Milsy (Mils Muliaina) and he said, 'Start answering your phone, you idiot', so that was sort of the message I needed."
Donald, 27, said he was always hopeful of getting a run at the World Cup.
"You're always hopeful and I was keeping fit and just waiting. My chance has come now so that's all I'm worried about," he said.
"I've had a good break, a good month away and have just been enjoying watching the World Cup," added Donald, who won the last of his 22 caps against Wales in Cardiff in November last year.
"Now I've been given a crack and an opportunity here which I'm extremely excited about.
"Fitness-wise, I'm pretty confident. Very confident."
Meanwhile wing Hosea Gear said he had mixed feelings taking the place of 100-cap Muliaina, who was forced out of the tournament after scans Monday revealed a fractured shoulder suffered in the 33-10 quarter-final win over Argentina.
"It's quite overwhelming, but I think the first thing that came to mind was the pain that Milsy (Muliaina) was feeling.
"Obviously having your dream and everything taken away from you, I've felt that and that's what I felt straight away," Gear said.
Fellow wing Richard Kahui said he would be fit and available for this weekend's semi after recovering from a hamstring injury, which kept him out of New Zealand's final pool win over Canada and the quarter-final victory against the Pumas.
Assistant coach Wayne Smith played down the third injury call-up in the battle-weary All Black squad.
"It's not who you've got in the team, it's what you've got inside you that counts at this point and that's what'll win it," Smith said.
Smith urged the All Black not to have too many preconceptions about how the Wallabies, who overcame defending champions South Africa 11-9 in a gruelling quarter-final encounter, would perform this weekend.
"We know them well, they know us well. We know it's going to be a massive encounter.
"As with any team, you have some expectations about what's going to happen and how they're going to play. But when you enter the field you can't believe that, you've just got to see what's in front of you."