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May 29, 2017

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All Blacks hit by further World Cup injuries

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Pride and penitence was mixed with pain in the aftermath of weekend Rugby World Cup quarterfinals which left four survivors nursing injuries of varied severity and four teams dealing with defeat with degrees of resignation.

New Zealand's 33-10 win over Argentina, which earned a semifinal against archrival Australia, had a grim sequel when flyhalf Colin Slade and fullback Mils Muliaina were ruled out of the tournament, deepening an injury crisis that began when it lost star playmaker Dan Carter.

Muliaina fractured his left shoulder and Slade tore a groin muscle, forcing New Zealand to test against its vaunted resource of quality players.

Flyhalf Stephen Donald and winger Hosea Gear had both accepted the end of their international careers when they missed selection in New Zealand's initial World Cup squad, but have now been called back to test duty.

Donald, who will join the English club Bath in November, has played 22 tests but has struggled to reach the standard that test rugby demands of a flyhalf and is already associated with one of New Zealand's most galling losses to Australia.

New Zealand's game unraveled when he came on as a replacement for Carter in a Bledisloe Cup test in Hong Kong in October last year. The All Blacks surrendered an early lead and went on to lose 26-24, their only loss of that season.

The loss of Carter and Slade leaves Aaron Cruden, who missed initial World Cup selection and has played only seven tests, as New Zealand's new first-choice flyhalf.

England center Manu Tuilagi and All Blacks winger Cory Jane took the role of penitents Monday, publicly apologizing for off-field misbehavior. Tuilagi was briefly detained by police Sunday after leaping from a ferry as it prepared to dock at a downtown Auckland jetty and swimming to shore.

The 20-year-old Tuilagi was returning from scenic Waiheke Island on Auckland's Waitemata Harbor, where some England players chose to wind down after Saturday's 19-12 quarterfinal loss to France. He was quick to apologize to embarrassed team officials, but fined 3,000 pounds (US$4,700) by England's Rugby Football Union for his action.

England manager Martin Johnson, under fire after a series of off-field indiscretions from his players during the tournament, described Tuilagi's actions as "an irresponsible thing to do."

"Manu has been disciplined internally and I have warned him about his future conduct."

Jane also apologized for his drunken night out with teammate Israel Dagg 72 hours before the All Blacks' clash with Argentina. He said he made a "stupid choice" to go out drinking before such an important match.

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