AUCKLAND, New Zealand - It was a simple kicking routine Dan Carter had completed thousands of times, his last in practice the day before he was to captain New Zealand for the first time.
It'll be his last for a long time. Carter tore a tendon in his groin, an injury that knocked him out of the World Cup, robbing the All Blacks of their best player and casting a shadow over New Zealand's chances of ending its 24-year wait for another Cup title.
After spending a day shielded from the public glare that followed news of his tournament-ending injury, Carter went into a news conference on crutches at the team's Auckland hotel on Monday to describe his "gut-wrenching" experience.
He admitted he hadn't really wanted to speak to the media about it, especially so soon, but said he overcame that because he wanted to encourage the All Blacks and fellow New Zealanders to move on, especially with the quarter-finals starting this weekend.
Carter reflected on Saturday as "the most craziest day of my life."
"To be named All Black captain was something very special," he said.
He'd been given the job for the last pool match against Canada when Richie McCaw withdrew with a niggly foot injury.
At the captain's run in Wellington Regional Stadium, Carter said he went through his usual routine, only shorter than normal. He usually takes 15 to 20 goalkicks the day before a match. He decided to take only four. He was hurt on the fourth.
"I knew it was pretty serious because of the pain and because it was quite unusual," Carter said. "I've kicked thousands of balls since I was a young fellow and I've never had that happen after I've kicked a ball. I felt a pop and the next thing I'm on the ground in agony."
"The randomness of the injury, to come out of the blue ... my body was really good leading into the World Cup. It was good all week," he added. "I can't put my finger on why. I'm constantly asking why did this happen and I don't have answers unfortunately."
Carter said the team had discussed serious injury scenarios, including his own, in the buildup to the tournament.
"I was really hoping it wouldn't happen (to me)," he said.
He admitted he was angry on Saturday, and vented behind closed doors. He was informed that night he was out of the Cup and likely sidelined for three months, and warned family and friends before the news was made public early Sunday.
Carter said he texted Colin Slade, the All Blacks' next-in-line fly half, to offer support, to tell him to be excited about the opportunity, and to enjoy it. Slade was competent in the 79-15 win over Canada on Sunday, succeeding with five of nine goalkicks in a swirling wind, and going off in the last quarter as a precaution.
"I feel sorry for him," Carter said. "There's been a lot of talk comparing us. But he's a great player. He's got an opportunity to go out and play his game, and he's got the support of the whole squad. He was thrown in (against Canada) at the last moment, and I thought he played well."
Assistant coach Steve Hansen said the All Blacks squad, facing Argentina in the quarter-finals on Sunday, was coming to terms with losing Carter.
"What the team needs to do, and Colin Slade needs to realize, is he's Colin Slade, not Dan Carter," Hansen said. "The team needs to go out there and do their job better and take up the slack."
Carter won't stay with the team for the remainder of the tournament — "My moping around is not going to help them," he explains. But he will attend the matches as a spectator, and offer tips and advice.
Hansen said the All Blacks were moving on. He said their other injured players, including McCaw, Tony Woodcock, and even Slade were all OK.
"Dan Carter will come through this stronger and an even better man," Hansen said. "He's a top bloke. And one of the good things is he might play in the next World Cup because he's a young man (29)."
Carter, who is contracted to the New Zealand Rugby Union to the next World Cup, smiled at Hansen's suggestion.
"Who knows? It's not something I've thought about."