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Injuries give MacDonald a great start

Photosport

Sportal.co.nz     17 Sep 2007     Photosport

With the latest news that fullback Mils Muliaina is likely to miss the next game against Scotland, it provides MacDonald with the chance to play his third game in succession at fullback.

He played against Italy after Conrad Smith pulled out before the game, resulting in Muliaina moving to centre, and then when Muliaina limped from the field early against Portugal on Saturday, MacDonald was straight into the action again.

"I've spent a lot of time injured myself, it's swings and roundabouts, part of the game I suppose.

"You don't want to see your team-mates injured but when it happens it opens up the door for somebody else," he said.

Given the lack of rugby opportunities he has had this year, with the reconditioning and the break after the Philips Tri Nations, MacDonald said it wasn't as if he was playing after being battered around in a normal rugby season.

"I'm excited about it. I feel the more time I get the better I will be so it's no problem about the game time," he said.

Getting called in against Portugal had been unexpected but he enjoyed the occasion.

"It was a nice game to play in, it was fun. The Portugese played well, they played with a lot of enthusiasm, they weren't dirty in any way. They just went out there and played good positive rugby and had a crack.

"I think both teams enjoyed the occasion and it was nice to play in a day game with the sun on our backs," he said.

The two teams met afterwards and had a beer and swapped jerseys while the All Blacks reserves had a game of soccer with the Portugese reserves - he didn't know the score but was confident Portugal would have made it 1-1 for the day after that.

Like assistant coach Steve Hansen, MacDonald did not think a lack of hard pool play would affect the All Blacks in the knockout phase of the tournament.

"Quite often we go into the Tri Nations off playing a lesser nation.

"This team, as a group, had a lot of big games and we know what to expect and what it takes.

"We've got a big game this weekend at Murrayfield so all the games aren't going to be easy. We're going to have a good hit out this weekend against a top team.

"Even though we haven't had as tough a ride as some of the other teams, we are still happy with the rugby we have played," he said.

MacDonald said there was a different atmosphere about this World Cup compared with 2003, both from the way the French public has embraced it, and the way the All Blacks are approaching it. Memories of that event are well behind the team.

"It has been a different approach and a different style in the whole lead-up to this World Cup and the whole way we have dealt with pool play.

"We went in quite full-on from the start of the last World Cup and played fairly well in the pool games, and it was a lot more intense.

"Whereas, this time we have been building it up a little and trying to build momentum and not going in flat tack from the start," he said.