Slade and Muliaina out for All Blacks

by staff

New Zealand's bid to lift the Webb Ellis Cup on home soil has suffered a further injury blow with the loss of Mils Muliaina and Colin Slade for the rest of RWC 2011.

Slade, who had become first-choice fly half after the withdrawal of star No.10 Dan Carter, was forced off in the 33rd minute of Sunday's night's quarter-final win over Argentina with a groin tear.

Full back Muliaina, who was earning his 100th cap, did not reappear after half-time after suffering a fractured shoulder. With a move to Japanese club NTT Docomo lined up after RWC 2011, the 31-year-old's All Blacks career is over.

"I've had an outstanding run and am proud to have been an All Black. It's sad knowing I'm not going to be back," Muliaina said at a press conference on Monday.

Aaron Cruden, who joined the squad as cover when Carter was ruled out, also by a groin injury, becomes first-choice fly half and Stephen Donald has been called in as back up.

Donald has played 22 Tests and scored 95 points. He signed a contract with English club Bath in June.

Hosea Gear, the 27-year-old Highlanders wing, has been called up in place on Muliaina. Gear has eight caps and played in this year's Tri Nations but did not make the final cut for the RWC squad.

Succession of injuries

All Blacks team doctor Deb Robinson said: "Mils Muliaina hurt his (left) shoulder right at the end of the first half and had to be replaced at half-time.

"He clearly wasn't fit and today he's had some imaging and this has confirmed it's a fracture in his shoulder. This makes it impossible for him to carry on so we've withdrawn him from the rest of the tournament.

"Also in the first half Colin Slade suffered a partial tear of his left adductor and we don't have long enough to rehabilitate him during the tournament."

New Zealand coach Graham Henry said: "Obviously they're very disappointed. They've got a tournament-ending injury. How they feel is very natural.

"Hosea Gear and Stephen Donald will join the team tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.

"The reason why they're joining tomorrow morning is so we can say goodbye to these guys correctly. That's the reality of the situation. It's not that sensitive, but that's the way it is."

The All Blacks' campaign has suffered a succession of injury blows. Along with Carter's exit, captain Richie McCaw has played through the pain after recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.

However, Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui are set to return in time for Sunday's semi-final with Australia at Eden Park, Auckland.

Donald and Gear's official inclusion in the All Blacks squad is subject to approval from Rugby World Cup Limited.