London - Australia are "definitely still contenders" to win next year's World Cup in England despite their current off-field strife, according to All Blacks flyhalf Colin Slade.
It needed Slade's last-gasp conversion to see world champions New Zealand to a 29-28 Bledisloe Cup win over Australia in Brisbane on October 18.
However, that was not the end of the day's drama, with Australia coach Ewen McKenzie sensationally confirming his resignation after the match following the fall-out from the Kurtley Beale text message affair.
That saw Di Patston quit her role in the Australia backroom staff, with McKenzie having to refute allegations of an affair with the team business manager.
With star flyhalf Dan Carter back to full fitness, Slade's on-field efforts were not good enough to gain him a place in New Zealand's squad for their tour of the United States and Europe which starts with Saturday's international against the US Eagles in Chicago.
But Slade has the chance to inflict fresh misery upon Australia as a member of the invitational Barbarians side selected by All Blacks great John Kirwan for the Wallabies' European tour opener at Twickenham on Saturday.
Nevertheless he said that under the guidance of new coach Michael Cheika, two-time World Cup winners Australia would be a "massive force" at the 2015 edition.- 'Hell of a team' -
"They are definitely still contenders next year," said 27-year-old Slade. "They showed in that last Test they're not far away at all.
"We've never taken them lightly, whatever the media have said, we've always respected them.
"They've got a hell of a team, a lot of quality individuals.
"They are having a tough time at the moment, but I tell you what, situations like that can really galvanise the team in the long-term.
"They've got a new coach in so they will build from there.
"And they'll be a massive force by the time the World Cup comes, absolutely no doubt."
Slade added: "It's obviously disappointing for them, the things that are happening at the moment, but I don't want to take any responsibility for adding to that with that conversion."
Although not selected in New Zealand coach Steve Hansen's original tour squad, Slade remains on standby -- an understandable precaution given fellow Crusader Carter's long history of leg injuries.
Slade is also well aware of how players can be drafted in late after both Carter and he suffered groin injuries during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
That led to the All Blacks calling up Stephen Donald from a fishing trip, with the third choice No.10 going on to play a starring role in New Zealand's win over France in the final.
"What's a blessing can also be a curse I suppose," said Slade. "I feel honoured to have played alongside and with Dan for so long.
"But at the same time selection comes down to numbers.
"And with him locked up in that in any team because he's such a world-class player it does leave one less spot for me.
"That's just the nature of rugby: unfortunately they can't take everyone and I got squeezed out of the tour."
He added: "Myself and a couple of others will stay around after the weekend just in case of any injuries, we'll watch the England game and then go home.
"What happened in 2011 with Stephen (Donald), those situations can arise.
"You can't just cruise or fade away: you've got to work as hard as you can to get into that team.
"If that situation happens again, you've got to be ready to step up."