NZ Rugby World - - Editor's Top 10 -

If there is one story bet­ter known than the for­ward pass in­ci­dent of the 2007 World Cup quar­ter­fi­nal, it is the ar­rival of Stephen Don­ald into the 2011 fi­nal.

The script for this one could hardly have been bet­ter had it been made up. The All Blacks, hav­ing been dumped out of the pre­vi­ous tour­na­ment by France in the quar­ter­fi­nal, were given the chance to avenge that four years later in New Zealand.

Un­be­liev­ably they would meet France in the fi­nal and in an in­cred­i­bly tight game where the ten­sion was pal­pa­ble, the All Blacks start­ing first-five Aaron Cru­den was forced o af­ter 30 min­utes with a se­ri­ous knee in­jury.

Cue Don­ald, the fourth choice No 10 who had been re­called from a fish­ing trip and just a year ear­lier was the most pil­lo­ried All Black in his­tory fol­low­ing a hor­ror per­for­mance in Hong Kong.

But a na­tion for­gave that night and Don­ald ran on to cheers and a stand­ing ova­tion. Out of shape and un­der pre­pared, he had the game of his life, kick­ing the win­ning penalty to be­come the hero of the hour.

“There was nowhere to hide,” he shrugged after­wards. “It was the World Cup fi­nal – time to front.

“My prepa­ra­tion prob­a­bly hasn’t been ideal. When you go white­bait­ing you take a few beers with you, so the fit­ness prob­a­bly wasn’t what it could be. Luck­ily I only had to sur­vive 50 min­utes.

“At times peo­ple have ques­tioned my All Black work... but you pride your­self on fronting up. You don’t al­ways agree with what’s writ­ten or said about you, but I was ex­cited. It was po­ten­tially my last game for the All Blacks so I wanted to play well and prove I’m a gen­uine All Black.”

KING FOR THE DAY New Zealand fell in love with Stephen Don­ald the night the All Blacks beat France in the World Cup fi­nal.

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