Carter: the mas­ter of de­cep­tion

Kiwi fly­half ’s game is a bal­ance of swag­ger and grace

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - CLIVE WOOD­WARD

WHEN Dan Carter runs out at Twick­en­ham to­day he will com­plete a cen­tury of caps. The New Zealand No 10 will have his 100.

Fly­half is rugby’s glam­our po­si­tion and Carter is the sport’s poster boy, the suc­ces­sor to Jonny Wilkin­son in the in­ter­na­tional game. It is a great shame we never saw the pair go head-to-head at their peak but I be­lieve Wilkin­son would have had the edge.

The key to stop­ping the All Blacks is to get Carter. The New Zealand game cen­tres around the No 10, it is the axis off which they run most of their plays so Eng­land’s am­bi­tion must be to take that link out of the chain.

He is an as­tute tac­ti­cian and a mas­ter of putting the ball where you are not, so you need to charge the quar­ter­back and “sack” him be­hind the gain line.

In the same way Roger Fed­erer hov­ers around a ten­nis court scarcely break­ing a sweat, Carter pos­sesses the same bal­ance of swag­ger and grace.

The best play­ers cre­ate time on the ball and Carter plays in slow­mo­tion, even with a back row clos­ing down on him. His coach Steve Hansen says if he was any­more re­laxed he would be asleep.

He is as in­stinc­tive a fly­half as I’ve seen. He has the nerve and poise to in­vite play­ers up to him, en­tic­ing for­wards on to him like a mata­dor, know­ing he has the pass­ing game to beat them, he can de­lay his pass and take the hit, or step off ei­ther foot to beat them.

Carter beats peo­ple be­cause he is light­ning quick but also be­cause of how subtly he de­ceives de­fend­ers, cre­at­ing a gap out of any weak­ness in a de­fen­sive line.

He is a mas­ter of de­cep­tion – he knows how closely a de­fender will watch him and he uses it against them. It may be as seem­ingly in­signif­i­cant as a glance out­side him or the small­est drop of his hands to sug­gest he is go­ing to pass or kick.

But through the cor­ner of his eye he will spot whether or not a de­fender fol­lowed this cha­rade, he’ll sense that mo­men­tary doubt and be­cause of his ac­cel­er­a­tion he’ll be gone. Do not look at his eyes, look at the cen­tre of his chest and belt him.

The All Blacks make around eight clean breaks per game and he is so of­ten the cat­a­lyst. If he ghosts through a de­fence, he will off­load or pass to put the sec­ond man away; if his for­wards win a turnover he rel­ishes the mis­match on the counter at­tack. His dis­tri­bu­tion skills are un­ri­valled and his lines of run­ning off the set piece are so dif­fi­cult to an­tic­i­pate.

As a pro­fes­sional game, rugby is still in its in­fancy and Carter has evolved tac­ti­cally with the law changes, kick­ing more when ref­er­ees favour de­fence and run­ning more when the game’s struc­ture favours at­tack.

He is no stranger to gym work, his core mus­cles are so de­vel­oped he can stand on a gym ball and throw spin passes while keep­ing his bal­ance.

As a five-year-old he learned the game at scrumhalf and he be­gan his pro­fes­sional ca­reer at in­side cen­tre, so he has an in­ti­mate un­der­stand­ing of the key roles in the back­line which makes him so sharp at scan­ning for space.

There is no doubt his de­vel­op­ment has been helped by play­ing be­hind an All Black pack that is so fre­quently on the front foot, and in­side a world-class cen­tre pair­ing in Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith.

The first time I saw him up close was dur­ing Eng­land’s tour of 2004. He was an in­side cen­tre who had only played once but he fin­ished both Tests with a per­fect haul of 13 suc­cess­ful kicks and scored a try. Yet it was his re­ac­tion to a stamp from Danny Grew­cock that caught my eye.

In­stead of turn­ing on Grew­cock he said af­ter­wards: “I was on the wrong side of a ruck and prob­a­bly shouldn’t have been there.”

I was very im­pressed by the young man’s dig­nity.

My real ex­pe­ri­ence of Carter was the 2005 Li­ons tour when he an­nounced him­self as one of the best play­ers of the mod­ern era.

His dis­play in the sec­ond Test – where his sec­ond-half haul of 22 points alone still stands as a record­break­ing per­for­mance against the Li­ons – was one of the most pol­ished and ac­com­plished I have seen from a player.

He nearly scored a hat-trick of tries, he col­lected his chips, he stepped play­ers and his pass­ing was elec­tric.

In one of the great­est All Black teams in his­tory – in­clud­ing the likes of Tana Umaga, Mils Mu­li­aina, Richie McCaw – he was the star of the side.

It was hor­ri­ble to be on the re­ceiv­ing end.

Carter’s per­son­al­ity is key to his suc­cess. He comes from a small town of South­bridge on the Can­ter­bury Plains with a pop­u­la­tion of less than 800 and 250-odd houses and his clos­est friends re­main those from home.

He at­tended Can­ter­bury Boys’ High whose school match against lo­cal ri­vals Christ’s Col­lege is tele­vised and the school’s alumni in­clude All Blacks An­drew Mehrtens, Aaron Mauger and Colin Slade.

As a child he wanted to be a su­per­hero and loved to dress up in cos­tume but now the All Black jersey has be­come his cape.

Carter changes on the pitch, it is a the­atri­cal trans­for­ma­tion and he rel­ishes the lead­ing role. Much like Wilkin­son, the hum­ble, cour­te­ous, quiet man be­comes an ag­gres­sive win­ner.

On his eighth birth­day his par­ents Neville and Bev, a builder and school teacher, built a full-size set of rugby posts in the land be­hind his gar­den, it was his “best present ever”. “Mum used to drag me in for din­ner be­cause I loved kick­ing goals un­til it was dark.”

It is not just his train­ing ethic that matches Wilkin­son, but his char­ac­ter. They are both very ar­tic­u­late men, stu­dents of the game who do not chase the spot­light.

He has lu­cra­tive com­mer­cial deals – the tower- block poster of him in boxer shorts were dif­fi­cult to miss all over Auck­land dur­ing the 2011 World Cup – but there is no re­sent­ment from his team­mates be­cause they know it is sec­ondary to what he does on the pitch.

Do that the wrong way round and play­ers will

‘As a child he wanted to be a su­per­hero and loved to dress up in cos­tume but now the All Black jersey has be­come his cape.’

turn on you.

The one area Wilkin­son stands clearly ahead of Carter is in de­fence. Wilkin­son stopped peo­ple run­ning down his chan­nel be­cause of his bru­tal tack­ling, but Carter lacks that de­fen­sive sav­agery.

The All Black is tech­ni­cally accu- rate and will make his tack­les – but he will not knock peo­ple back. If Eng­land send Billy Vu­nipola and Court­ney Lawes down his chan­nel then they can off­load and bring mo­men­tum to an at­tack.

New Zealand kick more than any other team and Carter has an amaz­ing ar­ray of kick­ing skills off ei­ther foot – grub­bers, chips, long-dis­tance, cross-field balls. They are used first and fore­most as at­tack­ing weapons rather than a de­fen­sive get- out op­tion.

The only bad game I have ever seen Carter play was in this fix­ture last year.

His prepa­ra­tion was all wrong. In the build-up he seemed to be all over Lon­don, at land­marks and pop con­certs. I had never seen that be­fore.

This year the All Blacks had Wed­nes­day off and he spent his evening prac­tis­ing his kick­ing un­til sun­set.

With Aaron Cru­den in scin­til­lat­ing form, this is the first time Carter is un­der gen­uine pres­sure for his shirt. He will rel­ish that pres­sure. He missed out on the knock­out stages of his home World Cup with a groin in­jury and re­mains de­ter­mined to lead New Zealand at Twick­en­ham in two years’ time.

To­day will serve as a pro­logue. – Daily Mail

100 NOT OUT: All Blacks’ Dan Carter has evolved tac­ti­cally with the game’s law changes, and would want a win over Eng­land as the cherry on top of his be­ing capped for the 100th time in Test rugby to­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.