Daniel Carter has signed o with Rac­ing 92 and we look back on the ca­reer of the man we be­lieve was the best No 10 to ever play.


NZ Rugby World - - Contents - Gre­gor Paul re­ports.

It’s late Novem­ber 2017 and Daniel Carter is back home in Paris, hav­ing spent most of the week in Ire­land where he had treat­ment on his in­jured knee.

He’s just fed his two young boys lunch and he wants to know a lit­tle about how the All Blacks might fare later that same day when they play Wales in Cardiff.

He’s been fol­low­ing the tour, not ob­ses­sively or ob­tru­sively but as a gen­uinely in­ter­ested Kiwi who can’t help but love the All Blacks.

It was typ­i­cal Carter, a bit of light ban­ter to kick things off and then an easy me­an­der into the news he wants to re­veal which is that he has signed to play for Kobe in Ja­pan.

He’ll see out the re­main­der of the sea­son with Rac­ing 92 and then head to Ja­pan in late 2018 for two years. It was a move he ag­o­nised over.

“It was a tougher de­ci­sion to make than I first thought it was go­ing to be,” he says. “I have loved my time in Paris and re­ally en­joyed be­ing with the club and liv­ing in France.

“But with the World Cup go­ing to Ja­pan in 2019 and the Olympics there in 2020, it is a re­ally ex­cit­ing time for rugby there. The op­por­tu­nity to help grow the game there and pro­mote rugby in Ja­pan was re­ally ap­peal­ing.

“I have spent a bit of time there al­ready, worked with kids there to try to get them in­ter­ested and I have re­ally en­joyed it. But the other big thing is Ja­pan is that much closer to New Zealand and with the way sea­son is set up, my fam­ily will be able to spend more time in New Zealand. They have sac­ri­ficed a lot for me so this felt like the right thing to do for them.”

Later that day, the world hears that he will be shift­ing to Ja­pan in 2018 and even though there was heavy spec­u­la­tion


pre­dict­ing the move be­fore it was con­firmed, there is still plenty of me­dia cov­er­age de­voted to Carter.

It be­comes ap­par­ent, that Carter is still a big ticket item in world rugby. He signed off with the All Blacks in 2015 and to some ex­tent that left New Zealan­ders feel­ing that Carter’s ca­reer had come to an end, or at least reached the stage where it was no longer worth fol­low­ing.

He had given him­self the per­fect send off. His per­for­mances in the fi­nal three games of the World Cup were vintage Carter. He was the steady­ing hand on the tiller for the All Blacks and in the fi­nal he gave a mas­ter class in how a No 10 should play knock-out rugby.

Every­one re­mem­bers the im­mac­u­late goal-kick­ing, the in­cred­i­ble drop goal and long range penalty in quick suc­ces­sion and the right-footed con­ver­sion to fin­ish.

But there was maybe one, seem­ingly in­nocu­ous play that marked the bril­liance and value of Carter. With the All Blacks reel­ing, hav­ing seen the Wal­la­bies storm back from 21-3 down to 21-17 in an eight-minute spell, the game was in dan­ger of slip­ping away from the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons.

A long kick by the Wal­la­bies saw the All Blacks turned and forced to retrieve the ball from deep inside their 22. It was Carter who picked it up and it was Carter who then thumped the ball a full 50 me­tres into touch. It was a huge re­turn, putting the ball out on the Wal­la­bies 10 me­tre line and it was from that li­ne­out that the All Blacks won the ball back and Carter would drop his goal.

He signed off as an All Black with a per­for­mance so con­trolled and com­mand­ing that World Rugby were never go­ing to give their player of the year award to any­one other than him.

It was the per­fect end­ing to Carter’s All Blacks ca­reer: a supreme per­for­mance in a World Cup fi­nal, com­ing four years af­ter he was de­nied the ful­fil­ment of that am­bi­tion by the cru­ellest in­jury. New Zealand’s fairy­tale player had his fairy­tale end­ing.

But it was an end­ing not the end be­cause while Carter had writ­ten the last chap­ter of his test ca­reer, his story has con­tin­ued even if many in New Zealand are dis­mis­sive or obliv­i­ous about what he’s been up to these past three years.

Out of sight, out of mind has prob­a­bly been true about Carter in his home­land and while the All Blacks and Cru­saders got the best of him, they didn’t get all of him.

If most New Zealan­ders were hon­est they would say that they felt Carter headed for Paris af­ter the World Cup to de­servedly col­lect on a huge pay out based on who he was rather than what he was bring­ing.

He was 33 and while he had been amaz­ing at the World Cup, he was also barely held to­gether phys­i­cally. The in­juries had been in­ces­sant be­tween 2012 and 2014 and eas­ily for­got­ten now is how

close he came to quit­ting given the dif­fi­cul­ties he had over­com­ing his phys­i­cal dra­mas.

Even at the World Cup he was bat­tling a knee in­jury and so it seemed that Rac­ing 92 had been quite, quite mad to have signed an in­jury prone 33-year-old on a three-year con­tract which would make him the high­est paid player in the world.

But they weren’t mad at all as it tran­spired. Carter has been worth ev­ery penny for the Parisians.

It’s not true to sug­gest the last few years have been plain sail­ing for Carter, but they have been mostly good. He hasn’t fallen off the face of the earth as a player. He hasn’t looked his age or ob­vi­ously faded as a force in the elite game.

He’s shown that he’s still got it. He hasn’t been his 25-year-old self, cut­ting de­fences to shreds with his elec­tric run­ning, but no one ever ex­pected him to be.

What he has been is a de­ci­sion-mak­ing tour de force, who has been hugely in­flu­en­tial through clev­erly ap­ply­ing the full range of his skills at his dis­posal.

Carter has been the tac­ti­cal gen­eral Rac­ing 92 wanted when they lost Ir­ish­man Johnny Sex­ton in 2015. Be­fore Carter ar­rived, Rac­ing had been big spenders but never with any­thing much to show for it. They could make the play­offs, but never push that far into them.

It all changed when Carter ar­rived. Rac­ing 92 won the Top 14 for the first time since 1990 when Carter was in the No 10 jersey.

Maybe this is too rudi­men­tary but Rac­ing 92 were a good team be­fore Carter ar­rived and once he was on board, he el­e­vated them to a cham­pion team. He was the big dif­fer­ence and prom­i­nent French writer Lau­rent Depret, re­ported dur­ing that vic­to­ri­ous cam­paign for Rac­ing 92 that: “Carter is pure gold. He’s fan­tas­tic.

“How many games has he gone un­beaten? Seven games at the World Cup plus five games of Cham­pi­ons Cup and Top 14. He’s a sun, he’s more than a star. In France he’s a true star now. There is a Carter ef­fect.

“All the play­ers are shift­ing their level of play. Casey Laulala is fan­tas­tic, he’s play­ing great be­cause Carter is here. Chris Ma­soe is the lead­ing fig­ure of the for­ward pack. Big Ben Tamei­funa as well. Joe Roko­coko. It’s fan­tas­tic what Carter is do­ing to the club.

“Rac­ing is [pos­si­bly] the best French or Euro­pean club at the mo­ment and Carter is the key fig­ure in all of this.”

In the 2017-2018 sea­son Carter didn’t


en­joy the same vol­ume of game time, but his in­flu­ence has been undi­min­ished nev­er­the­less. And that’s the in­cred­i­ble thing: at 36 Carter is not the same player but he’s still able to have the same kind of im­pact.

What other player has been able to do that? And what makes it yet more in­cred­i­ble is that he’s eked out three more great years af­ter such a long and distin­guished All Blacks ca­reer.

“As a young player pound for pound he had one of the best fends in the game,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said of Carter at the World Cup.” He has a great boot and, as a de­fen­sive player, as a No 10, he has been one of the bet­ter ones. I can only think of a cou­ple who would be up there with him – Jonny Wilkin­son was a great de­fender.

“He’s a great reader of the game like [Stephen] Larkham and [Andrew] Mehrtens and Wilkin­son I guess. He’s been one of the best, if not the best of all time.

“I think he [McCaw] is the great­est All Black we have ever had... and Dan is a close sec­ond.

“The only thing that prob­a­bly sep­a­rates them is that one is a flanker and you shouldn’t play 148 test matches as a flanker. That is un­heard of. You put your body on the line ev­ery time you play there.”

Carter clearly has not just been col­lect­ing the money in Paris and it is, frankly, quite ex­tra­or­di­nary that al­most 15 years to the day since Carter played in a Su­per Rugby fi­nal, he was in­volved in a Euro­pean Cup fi­nal.

It’s not al­ways easy to ap­pre­ci­ate the value of re­silience, tenac­ity and longevity but these are the qual­i­ties that push Carter into a world of his own. These are the qual­i­ties that com­plete his claim to be con­sid­ered the best first-five in his­tory. Maybe that was be­yond dis­pute as it was, be­cause no other No 10 has had the same breadth to their port­fo­lio.

Jonny Wilkin­son was a supreme kicker and de­fender, not so much of a run­ner, though. Stephen Larkham was a run­ner and slip passer with no equal, but he wasn’t a kicker.

Barry John ran like he was a ghost, but de­fended one like, too. All great play­ers but in com­par­i­son with Carter they come up short.

Carter could do every­thing, which is why he’s been able to stretch his ca­reer for as long as he has. He’s been able to adapt his game to stay rel­e­vant. At 23 he shred­ded the Li­ons with his run­ning game. At 33 he won a World Cup with his kick­ing and at 36, he was con­tribut­ing through his smart de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

What binds every­thing for Carter and what has al­lowed him to be such a sen­sa­tional player for such a long time are his tem­per­a­ment and pro­fes­sion­al­ism. The im­por­tance of both should not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

Plenty of first-fives have good skills-sets but they don’t al­ways have the abil­ity to stay calm and com­posed to use them ef­fec­tively. That was never the case with Carter.

In a 15-year ca­reer no one has ever seen him flap un­der pres­sure. Send a rush de­fence fly­ing at him and his hips and shoul­ders stayed square, his ac­tions un­hur­ried and his ex­e­cu­tion per­fect. Stand­ing on the touch­line lin­ing up a hugely im­por­tant con­ver­sion, you just knew he would keep his head down, swing true and nail it.

His head re­mained un­scram­bled through­out his ca­reer and he ef­fort­lessly brushed off the few mis­takes he made.

What helped keep him calm and com­posed was the knowl­edge that he had worked as hard as he could be­fore each game.

Carter was the con­sum­mate pro­fes­sional and his ded­i­ca­tion to the de­tail was leg­endary. He ate well, trained well and gave him­self ev­ery chance to re­cover af­ter each game.

He wouldn’t say he for­feited hav­ing a few drinks and good times along the way, but he was care­ful chose to live his life in mod­er­a­tion. How else could he have found a way back to the All Blacks af­ter the string of in­juries he suf­fered be­tween 2011 and


2014 which saw him rip his groin off the bone, break his hand and break his leg?

Carter had the de­sire and ap­pli­ca­tion to ded­i­cate him­self to long, long hours of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and re­cov­ery. As he’s be­come older, he’s be­come smarter at man­ag­ing his body – never cut­ting cor­ners and al­ways ac­cept­ing that he will have to spend longer than those younger than him to get him­self right.

Not many of his peers have made it as far into their 30s as he has and to still be go­ing at 36, when he’s en­dured so much phys­i­cal pound­ing over the years, is testament to his at­ti­tude and work ethic which are both ex­em­plary.

Few play­ers can keep find­ing ways to con­quer their phys­i­cal changes and that is one of the big rea­sons former Scot­land and Bri­tish Li­ons coach Ian McGeechan wrote this about Carter: “He re­mains, to my mind, the most com­plete No 10, and will be seen as one of rugby’s great­est play­ers. That, for me, puts him along­side the player I have al­ways seen as the ul­ti­mate bench­mark: Gareth Ed­wards.

“There have been some quite ex­cep­tional 10s. Play­ers who have a huge im­pact on games and, I be­lieve, change the out­come, not just of games, but tour­na­ments and test se­ries. Barry John, Phil Ben­nett, John Ruther­ford, Michael Ly­nagh, Rob Andrew [un­der­es­ti­mated in my opin­ion], Stephen Larkham, Gre­gor Townsend. All were ca­pa­ble of mo­ments of game-chang­ing ge­nius.

“Wilkin­son would prob­a­bly run Carter the clos­est. Jonny re­de­fined the role of the fly-half in de­fence and even then I think his im­pact was un­der­es­ti­mated. He was not as nat­u­ral in terms of run­ning as Carter or Beau­den Bar­rett. But he learned how to step. He taught him­self. He worked hard to be able to pro­duce com­plete per­for­mances.

“The hall­mark of a great player; the im­pact he has on those around him. Carter had that in spades. A great de­fender, he was brave, skil­ful, quick, a ma­chine with the boot. To av­er­age 14 points a test [ he scored 1,598 points in 112 games] is re­mark­able, how­ever good your team­mates are. And let us not kid our­selves, the All Blacks were, and re­main, the great­est team in the world. Carter made them bet­ter.

Along with Richie McCaw, he was the cat­a­lyst of that team. It was the same for the Cru­saders. He lifted them to new heights. Carter, though, in­vari­ably got it right. Even in the World Cup fi­nal in 2015, when he was near the end and hob­bling around on one leg, he was in­stru­men­tal in New Zealand win­ning.

Hav­ing missed the 2011 Rugby World Cup fi­nal due to in­jury, Carter needed that win in his fi­nal test. Like all great sports­men, he de­liv­ered. Like Wilkin­son, he stayed hum­ble, too.

“Carter is the great­est and most com­plete 10 of the mod­ern era.”


CON­TROL FREAK Dan Carter was the All Blacks’ supreme tac­ti­cal di­rec­tor at the 2015 World Cup.

NAILED IT Carter’s drop goal in the semi­fi­nal of the 2015 World Cup was a turn­ing point.

FRESH FACED Carter used his run­ning skills and pace more in his ear­lier ca­reer.

STAR AT­TRAC­TION The French loved Carter even if he was at the tail end of is ca­reer.




WIN­NING WAYS Carter helped Rac­ing 92 land the Top 14 ti­tle in 2016.

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