All Blacks still have leadership, says Smith
AUCKLAND, 11 Oct. - All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith believes there is enough depth and maturity in the New Zealand squad to fill the void left by Dan Carter and Mils Muliaina.
Veteran full back Muliaina this week followed talismanic fly half Carter in being ruled out of the remainder of Rugby World Cup 2011 through injury.
It means the All Blacks have lost two of their key leaders - plus the experience of the 185 Test caps they hold between them - as they prepare for a semi-final showdown with Australia.
Captain Richie McCaw is battling through the pain of a niggling foot problem and Muliaina, the only other All Black with 100 caps, and Carter would have been valuable lieutenants.
With Colin Slade, Carter's replacement, also being pulled out because of injury this week, New Zealand have once again been forced to delve into their rugby stocks for replacements.
But Smith is confident the host nation has enough talent and experience to cope with such losses.
“It certainly strikes at the heart of your leadership group,” he said. “But there are other players here with a lot of experience.
“Piri Weepu is standing up and that’s been important. Jimmy Cowan has a lot of experience, Conrad Smith has been pretty vital in the outside backs and Richard Kahui, whilst he doesn’t have a lot of games behind him, he’s an experienced player and has been a big player for us.
“You’ve just got to shift those leadership roles to different players. Mils and Daniel still have a part to play off the field, but on the field you’ve got to shift that hierarchy of leadership.
“We’ve brought players in that clearly will have a big role for us from here on in.”
New Zealand take on Australia in the second semi-final, on Sunday at Eden Park, Auckland.
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