Haunted Henry sees Slade as saviour

Graham Henry has urged New Zealanders to unconditionally back Colin Slade.

Henry, looking haunted when addressing the media, emphasised the tournament still had to be played and the key to any success would come from those available for selection.

All Blacks coach Henry said it was devastating for the player, the squad and the nation to lose Dan Carter, but added that Colin Slade was now the player in possession of the No 10 jersey.

‘I trust Colin to do the job,’ said Henry. ‘He is the No 1 now.’

Specialist flyhalf Aaron Cruden has been drafted into the squad as cover and versatile scrumhalf Piri Weepu is also an option to play flyhalf against Argentina in the play-offs.

Slade started in the 18-5 Tri Nations defeat against the Boks in Port Elizabeth and experienced a horror 60 minutes before being replaced by Weepu. He was also ordinary in the 83-8 win against Japan a fortnight ago.

The All Blacks medical staff confirmed Carter tore his groin muscle during a kicking drill at the captain’s run on Saturday and the recovery would be between 10 and 12 weeks. He is likely to undergo surgery in Auckland next week.

Carter had been named captain in Richie McCaw’s absence.

Slade produced a mixed bag in the 79-15 win against Canada. He kicked four from eight, made a break and had a kick charged down. He was moved to right wing on 50 minutes and hobbled off with an ankle injury in the 65th minute.

Henry said Slade had initially struggled but he thought he improved.

‘He just needs to play,’ Henry told the media.

Former Australian hooker Jeremy Paul did not agree with Henry, saying that without Dan Carter he couldn’t see New Zealand winning the competition. He also felt Slade was not up to it.

Sky television critic and former England flyhalf Stuart Barnes agreed: ‘I would get (Aaron) Cruden in there as soon as possible. Slade, like against Japan, just did not take control of a game in which his team was winning by 60-plus points.’

All Blacks captain against Canada Andrew Hore said it was important that the 14 who started with whoever played flyhalf against the Pumas do the job.

‘There is no doubting we will miss Daniel Carter. He is a special player,’ said Hore. ‘But the forwards simply have to ensure that whoever plays 10 is given the quality ball to control the game and that way go all the way in this tournament. And I believe we have good enough players to do this.’