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Carter needs to stay injury-free to fly one last time

Dan Carter kicking a penalty against Australia in Sydney on Saturday. The Wallabies won 27-19 to seal the Rugby Championship and the All Blacks will hope the fly-half is at his best in the World Cup.
Dan Carter kicking a penalty against Australia in Sydney on Saturday. The Wallabies won 27-19 to seal the Rugby Championship and the All Blacks will hope the fly-half is at his best in the World Cup.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • It is all too rare that the New Zealand All Blacks make an error so they made a glaring error in their new media guide published last week.

It says that Dan Carter's weight is 96kg, when coach Steven Hansen had just proudly claimed in a media conference that Carter has cut 4kg off his weight to stand at 92kg.

And this could be a good reason why the 33-year-old fly-half appears to have found a good semblance of his old genius.

Potentially, there was a great comeback tale to be written about the man who was injured in the last World Cup returning for one final flourish at the next.

But at the beginning of this season, a legitimate question was tossed around, asking whether Carter would ever be like the one of old after being plagued by injuries in the past two years.

TOUGH RETURN

If you get injured consecutively, it doesn't matter who you are, your mind's a powerful machine and it can play tricks on you. You think, is this ever going to come right?

STEVEN HANSEN, on All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter's comeback

On Saturday, however, he made history by becoming the first player in Test rugby history to score over 1,500 points, even though the All Blacks succumbed to a 19-27 loss to Australia.

Carter will become rugby's best-paid player after the World Cup in England from Sept 18 to

Oct 31, having signed a £1.3 million (S$2.8 million) annual contract with Racing Metro in the French Top 14.

He currently earns around £342,000 per year and makes about £107,000 from various endorsement deals with adidas and Samsung.

"We had built him to a 95kg athlete," Hansen said. "He's better suited to being a 92kg athlete.

"Some of that extra weight was causing stress on his body."

Indeed, during Carter's first game of the season in February for Crusaders against Melbourne Rebels, he hobbled off injured again with 10 minutes to go.

"He lost a lot of confidence because he just couldn't put a run of games together," Hansen said.

"If you get injured consecutively, it doesn't matter who you are, your mind's a powerful machine and it can play tricks on you. You think, is this ever going to come right?"

Three weeks after the injury suffered against the Rebels, tentative steps were made again.

This time, Carter did not trip up.

He played most of the domestic season at No. 12. But at the end of it, he was back at fly-half and the Carter of old started to re-appear.

"The big thing I felt was he just needed regular playing time," Hansen said.

"He really enjoyed going back to No. 10, getting back to running the team and doing what he does well.

"Now, he's started to feel comfortable in his own skin again... he's started to play well again."

It appears that he has played well enough to keep the next generation at bay. The position of fly-half in New Zealand holds an embarrassment of riches. Aaron Cruden, Colin Slade, Beauden Barrett and Lima Sopoaga have all registered persuasive arguments as to why Carter should finally be put out to pasture.

Yet, the odds have swung massively. The chances are that Carter will go to the World Cup and he may just, then, script that final, astonishing comeback chapter.

He has to remain uninjured, though, and that has to be doubtful.

It would be a great story if he does. THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2015, with the headline 'Carter needs to stay injury-free to fly one last time'. Print Edition | Subscribe