Fisher Donald hooked by All Blacks for World Cup
Updated: October 10, 2011, 22:34
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Stephen Donald was idly fishing from the banks of the Waikato River when he received the call to join the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad because of an injury crisis at flyhalf.
In fact, so absorbed was the 22-test veteran in netting whitebait, the local delicacy, he missed two urgent calls from All Blacks coach Graham Henry.
His afternoon idyll was finally shattered when his phone shrilled again: it was his Waikato Chiefs teammate, All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina to say "start answering your phone you idiot.''
Donald had been omitted from the All Blacks' initial 30-man World Cup squad and rejected again when the younger Aaron Cruden was summoned as a flyhalf replacement for the injured Dan Carter. He had all but given up on his international career and had turned to fishing to kill time before his contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union expired and he was able to join English club Bath in November.
Asked on Tuesday how he had reacted to the callup, he told reporters "obviously you never give up the dream but (I was) pretty surprised.''
While he had been taking things easy since the end of the New Zealand domestic season, Donald said he had just picked up his training in preparation for joining Bath. He said he was confident his fitness would hold out even if he was summoned from the reserves bench in the first minute of Sunday's semifinal between New Zealand and Australia.
"Fitness wise I'm pretty confident, very confident,'' he said. "As I say you're always hopeful (of being selected) and you keep up your fitness just in case.
"It's been a good break, a month away just watching the World Cup and now I've been given a crack, an opportunity and I'm extremely excited to be a part of it.''
Winger Hosea Gear also joined the New Zealand squad on Tuesday as a replacement for Muliaina, whose All Blacks career ended in last Sunday's quarterfinal against Argentina when he broke his shoulder in his 100th test. Gear also missed selection in New Zealand's early squad but now has a chance to extend his eight-test career.
"Obviously (it was) quite overwhelming (to be called up) but the first thing that came to mind was the pain that Mils (Muliaina) was feeling,'' he said. "Obviously having your dream taken away from you, I've felt that and that's what I felt straight away.''
Gear's callup came in the same week he became a father for the first time.
"Being called into the World Cup squad is something that myself and my family hold quite high as almost one of the pinnacles of your rugby career,'' he said. "But I guess nothing can compare with being a dad.
"Just coming in this morning, seeing the smiles on the guy's faces, feeling the excitement ... I sort of felt it as soon as I walked in the hotel. That just makes it that much more exciting for myself.''
All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith expressed confidence in the ability of both Donald and Gear to fit into the New Zealand squad. Both were members of the All Blacks team that toured Britain at the end of last year.
Smith cited the case of Cruden, who was plunged into last weekend's quarterfinal at an early stage after an injury to flyhalf Colin Slade.
"You've got to remember that two weeks ago Aaron Cruden was falling off his skateboard and then after 33 minutes on Sunday he was in the quarterfinal of a World Cup,'' Smith said.