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.
DANIEL CARTER HAS SIGNED OFF WITH RACING 92 IN PARIS AND PROVEN BEYOND DOUBT THAT HE IS THE GREATEST NO 10 IN THE HISTORY OF THE GAME.
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
...WITH THE WORLD CUP GOING TO JAPAN IN 2019 AND THE OLYMPICS THERE IN 2020, IT IS A REALLY EXCITING TIME FOR RUGBY THERE.’ DAN CARTER
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
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.’ STEVE HANSEN
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
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.’ IAN McGEECHAN
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.”
McCAW AND CARTER
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.