BEAVER NAILS IT
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.