THE ALL BLACKS have sustained further injuries as their World Cup adventure on home soil continued with a quarter-final win over Argentina on Sunday.
The home nation had to overcome the resolute challenge of their opponents despite losing the services of fly-half Colin Slade and full-back Mils Muliaina, who made his 100th appearance for his country on the night.
“Colin’s definitely a groin and I’m not quite sure how long that’s going to take to come right,” coach Graham Henry admitted afterwards.
“I think Mils has got a pretty serious shoulder injury so I think he might be in a bit of trouble.”
New Zealand are already missing Dan Carter for the remainder of the tournament, the number ten picking up a groin injury in training, and Slade’s problem could reduce Henry to selecting his third choice out-half (22-year-old Aaron Cruden) for the semi-final against Australia.
He will at least be comforted by the kicking performance of scrum-half Piri Weepu however, as the latter nailed seven penalties and a conversion to keep the Kiwis’ scoreboard ticking over during a tense encounter against their southern-hemisphere opponents.
However, there was some good news for Henry in that captain Richie McCaw came through the quarter-final unscathed after sitting out the final pool game against Canada. The back row paid tribute to Argentina’s efforts after the final whistle, insisting that the All Blacks had been prepared for such a tough contest.
“It was what we expected,” he said. “Come knockout time, it may take 80 minutes (but) we knew we would get the chances if we kept chipping away.
“They were a team that attacked the breakdown well. They slowed us down, and we had to respond to that.”
The defeat is likely to signal retirement time for several of Argentina’s most established players, possibly including Mario Ledesma and Felipe Contepomi, and Head coach Santiago Phelan said he was “very proud” of his team.
“Even though it hurts that we lost, the team performed very well for large periods of the game. We can’t forget that we were playing against the best team in the world.
“Our plan was to play the best possible rugby we could and to give 100% – (and) that we did.”