AUCKLAND // Dan Carter, the New Zealand fly-half, described the injury that ended his Rugby World Cup dream as "gut-wrenching" today but said he would do anything in his power to help the All Blacks win the tournament without him.
Widely regarded as the best No 10 in the world, Carter, 29, was integral to his country's hopes of winning the Webb Ellis Trophy for a second time on home soil after their one and only triumph in 1987.
On Saturday, however, he suffered a groin injury "out of the blue" during routine kicking practice which prevented him from winning his 85th cap in the All Blacks' final group match against Canada and ultimately ended his tournament.
"I knew it was going to be pretty serious just because of the pain and because it was quite unusual," he told reporters at the team hotel. "I've kicked thousands of balls since I was a young fellow and I'd never had this happen.
"I just felt it pop, hence going down to the ground in agony."
Although he eased himself gingerly into his chair today, Carter was pretty much his usual self at the news conference and even flashed a smile or two.
He did, however, say he had spent a bleak Saturday night in bed reflecting on "the craziest day of my life", which started with him being handed the All Blacks captaincy and ended with "one of the dreams" of his life being shattered.
"It is pretty gut-wrenching and really disappointing but I have to get over it and think positively and help the guys in any way I can," he said.
"It's important that the country get over it and move on and continues to support the All Black side. Now we're in the play-offs [knock-out stages of the tournament], the support is even more important."
Colin Slade, the latest in a long line of Carter understudies, picked up the mantle in the win over Canada on Sunday and is likely to retain the position for New Zealand's quarter-final against Argentina at Eden Park on Sunday.
Carter said that, despite his own misery, he had spoken with Slade before the match to offer his support.
"I just wanted to encourage him to get on with it," he said. "I feel sorry for him, he's getting a lot of talk comparing the two of us, but he's a great player and deserves the spot and he has the opportunity to go out play his own game and I know he has the support of the whole squad."
Assistant coach Steve Hansen, while offering support to Carter, said the squad now needed to focus on the task in hand.
"Our job now is to get on and win this World Cup, we're in a quarter-final this Saturday and that has to be our focus," he said.
"Colin Slade needs to understand first of all that he's Colin Slade, he doesn't have to be Dan Carter," he added.
"And what the rest of the team needs to do is just do their job a little bit better and take up the slack that might have been left without DC [Carter]."
Hansen said there were no other major injury concerns although prop Tony Woodcock would be monitored after suffering a knock to the head in the Canada match.
Carter, who said he had not thought about whether he might still play at the next World Cup in 2015, echoed Hansen's sentiments about what his erstwhile team mates needed to do.
"We've got enough depth and such a good squad," he said. "We're in the play-off stages so we've got a final this week and we just have to go out and put everything on the line and play like there's no tomorrow."