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Fisherman Donald lands the biggest 'catch' of his life

UNWANTED by the All Black selectors and under fire from fans over his past performances, Stephen Donald became an unlikely national hero when he kicked the goal which ultimately decided Sunday's World Cup final.

The 27-year-old had not played for New Zealand in almost a year and had been overlooked for Graham Henry's World Cup squad, but a bizarre series of injuries to the team's fly-halves ended with him making his tournament debut in the final.

Dan Carter, New Zealand's first-choice number 10, was the first to go after succumbing to a groin injury. Colin Slade was promoted to start in his place with Aaron Cruden called up as his replacement.

When Slade injured his groin in the quarter-final win over Argentina, Cruden was thrust into the starting side, forcing coach Graham Henry to find another backup.

Donald was the last fly-half in the wider training group that all teams retain in case of injury and he was fishing on the Waikato River when he got a call from All Blacks fullback Mils Muliana.

"Obviously Ted (Henry) couldn't get hold of me because I usually don't answer phone calls that I don't know the number of and I'd deleted Ted's number," said Donald.

"Milsy said 'you'd better start answering your phone you fool'."

Donald did not play in last weekend's semi-final win over Australia.

But 34 minutes into the final, Cruden went down after injuring his right knee in a tackle and Donald was on.

New Zealand led 5-0 at half-time but could have been ahead by more had scrum-half Piri Weepu not missed his three shots at goal.

When France gave away a penalty in front of the posts six minutes into the second half, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw told Donald to take the shot.

The fourth choice fly-half barely slotted the ball past the righthand post, giving his team an 8-0 lead which, ultimately, proved to be just enough.

"I was pretty proud to get it over," a delighted Donald said.