Rugby World Cup 2011: News round-up

NZ coach Graham Henry speaks to the media alongside All Blacks doctor Deb Robinson on Monday
Graham Henry speaks to the media alongside All Blacks doctor Deb Robinson

A round-up of the latest news, views and gossip from the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Latest: New Zealand coach Graham Henry revealed his two new fly-half options were not exactly in the swing of full training when they were summoned as replacements to his World Cup squad. "Last week Aaron [Cruden] was skateboarding around Palmerston North, having a couple of beers and watching us play - now he's the number one 10 in the country," Henry said of the fly-half who replaced Dan Carter and came on for the injured Colin Slade in Sunday's quarter-final win over Argentina. Stephen Donald, who has now replaced Slade, was out fishing when he got the call. "He was whitebaiting when I talked to him today," Henry said. "So he's been running up and down the side of the river - one of the criteria for selection was two pounds of fresh whitebait."

Australia trio Kurtley Beale, Pat McCabe and Sekope Kepu are all set to undergo scans ahead of Sunday's semi-final with New Zealand after their bruising last-eight victory over South Africa. Coach Robbie Deans said the moves were all precautionary for full-back Beale (hamstring), centre McCabe (shoulder) and prop Kepu (ankle), and is optimistic about their chances of being available for the All Blacks encounter at Eden Park.

Ireland's Alain Rolland will referee the first semi-final between Wales and France in Auckland on Saturday. Rolland, who was in charge of the World Cup final when South Africa beat England in Paris four years ago, will have England's Wayne Barnes and South African Jonathan Kaplan as his assistants. Sunday's second semi-final between New Zealand and Australia will be controlled by South African Craig Joubert, assisted by Welshman Nigel Owens and France's Romain Poite. Appointments for the final and third place play-off game will be announced next Monday.

Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris is convinced Wales can win the World Cup after their 22-10 victory over the Irish in the quarter-finals. "If Wales play like they did against us, there's no reason why they can't win the World Cup," he said. "They were very smart and took every opportunity. They have big, strong ball carriers and a magnificent back row. They've brought in a lot of young guys who have confidence and self-belief. They have the right blend of youth and experience."

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny believes Wales must maintain their adventurous approach in their semi-final against France on Saturday. "We can't afford to go into our shells," he said. "We have to go out and express ourselves. If we don't do that, we will lose before we even take the field, so that is not an option. "We are a team that plays rugby and we try to make the right decisions on the ball."

France coach Marc Lievremont says his side must block out all distractions if they are follow up Saturday's victory over England by beating Wales and reaching a third World Cup final. "History has shown that, after a tough win where anger and pride were shown, there has been a failure afterwards," said Lievremont, referring to Les Bleus' semi-final exploits in the 1987 and 1999 tournaments. "I hope we manage to do it this time, though. The danger is to spend the week satisfying the media, the agents...the risk is to believe you've become a superb rugby player. But [against England] we were the same players as in Wellington [in the loss to Tonga], except we had grown some backbone."

Number eight Imanol Harinordoquy has exhorted his team-mates to do what no other previous French team has done and go on and win the World Cup. "We have to play two more games to do something really big. Let's keep our feet on the ground," he said. "This is the beginning, not the end."

Argentina's veterans are predicting a bright future for the Pumas when they join an expanded Tri-Nations competition next year. The 2007 semi-finalists lost 33-10 to New Zealand in the last eight on Sunday. "We've lasted up until now and we're quite proud of what we've done," said 38-year-old hooker Mario Ledesma, who was making his final bow in Test rugby. "We wanted to build this team and instill values on the field, as we think that it's very important to properly represent the Argentine flag. The leaders who are staying behind know the work that's still to be done. It's a hard task but they largely have the capacity to do it. When you see the likes of (lock) Patricio Albacete and (back-rower) Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, they are much more talented players than us, and among the best in the world."