Slade gets All Blacks call-up
September 1, 2010
Canterbury's Colin Slade is set to provide cover for fly-half Aaron Cruden © Getty Images
Uncapped Canterbury fly-half Colin Slade has been included in the All Blacks squad for their final Tri-Nations clash against Australia in Sydney.
There are no surprises in the 26-man squad unveiled by coach Graham Henry, with the only question mark in the lead-up surrounding who would be included as cover for Aaron Cruden who is set for his first start with Dan Carter sidelined following surgery on an ankle injury.
That role falls to Slade, 22, ahead of two other likely contenders -- Canterbury team-mate Stephen Brett and North Harbour's Luke McAlister. The versatile Slade was drafted into the All Blacks squad as injury cover last year and has been a regular starter for the Crusaders in a variety of positions over the past two seasons. His form for Canterbury in recent rounds of the national provincial championship appear to have won him the nod and he is likely to be named on the reserve bench for the Test.
Slade wants to sidestep the utility tag as much as any rugby player but for now he's blessed to be seen as a jack of all trades. A chat this morning with All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith revealed that versatility was a major factor in his promotion.
"He said that helped me, the fact I can play fullback, wing and obviously 10," Slade told NZPA. "The utility word's been thrown around. It's not something I want but it's obviously helping me at the moment. And whether it was at fullback or wing, at least I was playing and getting more experience."
The shuffling should end next year when he takes up his Super 15 contract with the Highlanders. Focusing on fly-half has become a priority, with regular time there in the current national provincial championship showing through in his excellent form during last weekend's 35-18 defeat of Auckland.
"To start with I always knew that they (Carter and Brett) were going to be here so it was about me doing my apprenticeship, wherever I played," he said. "Now 10 is where I see my future and obviously with DC here, that was still a potential problem which is why I signed for the Highlanders. That's another chapter and I'm looking forward to it but I'll concentrate on this stuff first."
A former New Zealand under-19 and under-21 pivot, Slade can kick proficiently with both feet and boasts sharp acceleration and eye for a gap. His tactical appreciation is on an upward curve but his goalkicking remains an area needing more consistency.
Winning a first cap off the reserve bench in Sydney would complete a childhood dream. "Every boy growing up wants to play for the All Blacks and I was no different," he said. "Watching the teams on TV as a wee fella in the mid-90s, they were playing really well and I decided that's where I wanted to be."
All Blacks squad named today for the final Tri-Nations match against Australia in Sydney on September 11:
Mils Muliaina, Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Joe Rokocoko, Rene Ranger, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Benson Stanley, Aaron Cruden, Colin Slade, Jimmy Cowan, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Victor Vito, Brad Thorn, Tom Donnelly, Sam Whitelock, Anthony Boric, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, John Afoa, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Corey Flynn