New Zealand fly half Daniel Carter has been ruled out of Rugby World Cup 2011 with a serious groin injury.
The torn groin muscle tendon was "a tragedy" for a player preparing for the pinnacle of his career so far, All Blacks head coach Graham Henry told a press conference at the team hotel on Sunday.
Carter tore the adductor longus tendon in his left groin during kicking practice on Saturday at the team's captain's run training session ahead of Sunday's Pool A match against Canada, and scans confirmed he could not continue in the tournament.
His place in the squad will be taken by 22-year-old fly half Aaron Cruden, subject to RWCL approval. He has played six Tests for the All Blacks since his debut last year, while Colin Slade will play fly half against Canada and becomes the team's first choice in the position.
Despite the obvious impact on the All Blacks' campaign, Henry's first thoughts were for the injured player.
“It’s devastating for Daniel. He’s been a world-class player for a long time, probably one of the greatest players ever produced by this country.
"This was going to be his pinnacle, the Rugby World Cup. We’ve had a lot of focus on this tournament for the last couple of years and it’s devastating he can’t be involved in that.
“It’s a tragic situation for a highly talented young sportsman. This was his scene really; a World Cup in New Zealand and it was going to be his big occasion."
The 29-year-old Carter, who missed an earlier Pool A match against Japan with a back injury, was due to captain New Zealand for the first time in the Canada match, replacing an injured Richie McCaw. He has played in 85 Tests for New Zealand and scored 1,250 points. This was his third Rugby World Cup.
While the squad was shattered at the news, Henry said they will refocus on the task ahead.
"We've just got to make sure that we're strong and clear and go ahead from here and do the business."
Henry said Slade will take over as first choice fly half.
"Colin Slade was selected at number two five eight after Daniel. He hasn't played a lot of footy but he's got a lot of ability and I think it's important that we've got a lot of belief in him."
Team doctor Deb Robinson said the injury struck Carter "totally out of the blue".
"He's (Carter) had no history whatsoever of groin problems, he had no symptoms on the day, he trained well at the captain's run and it just happened totally out of the blue.
"The scan really backed that up. His scan, other than the current injury, is pristine - and for a guy who's played that much rugby and done that much kicking, that's quite remarkable really.
"There's just no reason."
Dr Robinson said such an injury would usually involve a recovery period of 10 to 12 weeks.
Cruden missed selection in the World Cup squad of 30 after an inconsistent year with the Hurricanes but has played well with regional side Manawatu in the domestic competition.
The former New Zealand Under-20 captain was named IRB junior player of the year in 2009 and won All Blacks selection for the first time in May last year, coming off the bench for Carter against Ireland.