New Zealand 8-7 France, Rugby World Cup, October 23, 2011
Donald hits out at doubters
October 23, 2011
Stephen Donald lines up the winning points for the All Blacks © Getty Images
Stephen Donald has hit back at his critics after kicking New Zealand to a first Rugby World Cup title in 24 years.
The 27-year-old playmaker - who will join Bath in the coming weeks - landed a second-half penalty to defeat France 8-7 at Eden Park on Sunday, having made a late run to the tournament following a number of injuries.
With Dan Carter and Colin Slade already sidelined, a nasty knee injury to Aaron Cruden early on in Auckland gave Donald the platform to sign off in style.
"There are people out there who undermined my status as an All Black. To get the chance to prove that I am an All Black is good. I think a World Cup Final is a pretty good place to start," he said.
"I'm just fortunate to get the opportunity to come into such a great team. You always dream about it and I never gave up on that dream. When I got called into the squad the dream got closer to being a reality and now I'm here."
Just two weeks ago Donald was whitebaiting with friends and enjoying a couple of beers, but he kept his cool to slot a kick that could be career-defining.
"At the time I didn't think much of it. It was just a kick out in front and I just put it over," he said. "I haven't kicked a ball in about six weeks. At the time I didn't think it would be important, but it turned out that way.
"My mates are probably thinking 'there's the bloke who was kicking back with a few beers and going whitebaiting with us out in the middle of Eden Park'. My preparation hasn't been ideal. When you go whitebaiting you usually take a couple of beers with you. So my fitness was probably not what it could have been. Fortunately I only had to hold out for 50 minutes."
All Blacks boss Graham Henry admitted that he had faith in Donald's abilities despite the trying nature of his introduction to the game.
"I was nervous the whole game, not just about Stephen Donald. I knew he could handle it," Henry said. "Donald came on and played bloody well. He kicked what turned out to be the winning goal and gave us field position when we needed it."
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