New Zealand's bid to win the World Cup suffered a double blow on Monday as Mils Muliaina and stand-in fly-half Colin Slade became the latest All Blacks to be ruled out of the tournament through injury.
With star No. 10 Dan Carter already out of action with a groin injury, Slade succumbed to a similar problem to ensure the stand-off's 24th birthday here on Monday was not one he would remember with any great fondness.
“Have we got the depth?,” said New Zealand coach Graham Henry, posing the question on the minds of All Black fans across the rugby-mad nation as they contemplated a semifinal against old rival Australia here on Sunday.
“We'll find out in the next two weeks, I guess,” Henry added.
Hosea Gear and Stephen Donald will replace 100 cap full-back Muliaina, who has a fractured shoulder, and Slade respectively in the squad after the duo suffered their setbacks during a 33-10 quarterfinal win over Argentina last weekend.
The sidelining of Slade brought Aaron Cruden into play eight days after he was rushed into the team following Carter's injury.
Asked if Cruden was now New Zealand's top fly-half, Henry said: “It looks that way, doesn't it?
“Obviously, they (Carter and Slade) were the first two fly-halves chosen and that is a setback, but that's the reality.”
However, Cruden's father said his son's experience of overcoming cancer two years ago would help him cope with being thrust into the World Cup spotlight.
Australia too have injury concerns, with the Wallabies sweating on the fitness of Kurtley Beale after the gifted full-back suffered fresh hamstring trouble in their 11-9 quarterfinal win over defending champion South Africa.
Midfielder Pat McCabe (shoulder) and prop forward Sekope Kepu (ankle) were the other notable casualties from a bruising encounter with the Springboks.
Wales, 22-10 winner over Ireland in the last eight, was upbeat about the prospects of fly-half Rhys Priestland and lock Luke Charteris both overcoming shoulder problems ahead of their semifinal clash against France.
Of greater concern to Wales skills coach Neil Jenkins was how to overcome a resurgent France, who stunned England 19-12 last weekend.
“They are a fantastic side and they have beaten us the last three times we played them,” the former Wales international added.
With refereeing interpretations again proving problematic, organisers appointed whistle-blowers well-known to both sets of semifinalists.
Ireland's Alain Rolland, the 2007 World Cup final referee, will oversee the Wales-France match, with South Africa's Craig Joubert in charge for the All Blacks-Wallabies clash.
Quarterfinals: New Zealand bt Argentina 33-10; Australia bt South Africa 11-9; France bt England 19-12; Wales bt Ireland 22-10.
Semifinal line-up: Wales v France; Australia v New Zealand.