Slade ready to grasp unexpected opportunity

NEW ZEALAND fly-half Colin Slade is eager to grasp his opportunity to steer the All Blacks to the Rugby World Cup semi-final in tomorrow’s (8.30am Irish time) clash with Argentina in Auckland.

Slade has inherited the All Blacks’ fabled number 10 jersey following the tournament-ending groin injury to inspirational playmaker Dan Carter.

Rather than be over-awed by the challenge of filling the void created by Carter’s absence, Slade is determined to deliver in the quarter-final at Eden Park.

He said: “It’s an opportunity and it’s one I’ve got to think positively about. I can’t be any way burdened by it — I’ve got to be excited about it.

“It is an opportunity. I wasn’t expecting it, I don’t think anyone else was, either, but that’s the way it’s worked out.

“It’s what every young fellow dreams of — to play in a World Cup, albeit through the disappointment of DC’s injury.”

Slade will attempt to relax and enjoy the occasion.

“I’m a young guy but I’m pretty enthusiastic about it and pretty excited about the opportunity,” he said.

“I’m going out there to be me — I’m not going out there to be DC. I’m going to play my game and lead the team the best way I know how. I want to go out there and assert myself from the start of the game.

“Sometimes things don’t come off and you take a step back and breathe and relax.

“My job out there is to direct the team on the field and knowing that I’m going to start from the beginning of the game makes it a little bit easier to prepare for.”

Slade will start outside scrum-half Piri Weepu and inside centre duo Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, with Mils Muliaina set to win his 100th Test cap at full-back.

The 23-year-old Highlanders fly-half has been boosted by the backing of his experienced colleagues.

He said: “It’s been awesome. The guys have been supporting me all week, preparations have been good.

“With DC going down there’s a loss of leadership there but other guys have stepped up and will continue to do so.

“It’s made me calm down, I suppose, and made me realise that they are going to help me out to do what’s best for the team.”

Smith expects Slade to raise his game. The 29-year-old centre, who is set to win his 53rd cap tomorrow, said: “Everyone trusts you’ve been picked by the selectors and that you’ve got the quality to handle pressure situations that come with being an All Black.

“Regardless of the position you don’t need to help them. They’ll step up. You’ve got to have faith in them and that way, if they’re good enough, they’ll return the favour. That’s what Sladey’s done and that’s what countless players have done in the All Black jersey.

“You put trust in them and you put faith in them and they deliver and that’s when the team really functions.”

The All Blacks’ match with the Pumas is set to reunite their first-choice back row for the first time since the Tri Nations. Captain Richie McCaw is set to return from a foot injury alongside number eight Kieran Read and blindside flanker Jerome Kaino.

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