Rugby

No room for sentiment as Carter makes test return

Had Daniel Carter's World Cup script gone to plan, the fly-half would still be basking in the glory of making a big impact in rugby's most prestigious final on home soil.

 
Carter forgets World Cup - RugbyAP
 

Maybe ghosting to the defensive line, fending off a loose forward who underestimated the upper body strength in his slim frame and using his deceptive pace to score a try in the final.

Or even slotting the winning penalty.

However, a torn groin muscle while training on Wellington's Rugby League Park during the pool phase ended that fairytale of directing the All Blacks to their second Webb Ellis trophy at Auckland's Eden Park.

The winning penalty was instead slotted by Stephen Donald, whose continuous tugging at his tight jersey demonstrated the fact he had been fishing for much of the World Cup and not expecting a desperate call from coach Graham Henry.

It was "Beaver" who went into New Zealand folklore while Carter, wearing a suit and tie, received his winner's medal after the 8-7 victory over France last October as part of the extended squad.

On Saturday, Carter will make his return to Eden Park for the All Blacks, having slowly worked his way back to fitness for the Canterbury Crusaders. And he can not wait.

"It has been a long time. I missed all the exciting stuff in the World Cup last year and that was disappointing personally," Carter said after he was named at flyhalf for New Zealand's first test against Ireland.

"One of my goals after I got over the injury was to make sure I got back in the black jersey and I'm very excited about that.

"This is just the start though. The first test match is always exciting and I'm looking forward to it."

The 30-year-old Carter will become the most capped flyhalf for the All Blacks, the match against Ireland will be his 71st in the number 10 jersey, and he said he could not get overwhelmed with emotion at his return and for the milestone.

"It's something you have to control," Carter said.

"Obviously, I have an important job to do on Saturday. I'm calling the moves and I need to be calm and clear and calculated."

Carter also needs to help debutant scrumhalf Aaron Smith settle into the flow of the test, which they had been trying to discuss during training this week.

"It's tough building new combinations and the 9-10 one is a crucial one," Carter said. "We needed to work on that a lot during the week.

"When we're out there (on Saturday), we just have to talk a lot and have great communication and continue to tell each other what we're doing... (but) I want him to go and play his game, play what he sees."

Smith was elevated into the All Blacks side after a superb Super Rugby season with the Otago Highlanders, his crisp pass proving to be one of the best seen in New Zealand since Graeme Bachop in the 1990s.

"He's (Smith) got a great pass," Carter said. "As a first-five (flyhalf) you really enjoy that extra time and space in terms of running the backline.

"Hopefully the forwards give him that go forward... and he can distribute that ball."

Reuters
 
 
 
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