Cape Town - World leading Test points scorer Daniel Carter has said he is fit enough
to play for the All Blacks next week against the United States in
Chicago, if required.
The All Blacks left New Zealand late on Sunday afternoon for their
end-of-season tour, which coach Steve Hansen has said will be used as a
practice for next year's Rugby World Cup knockout stages.
Carter was a widely discussed selection for the tour for tests against
the United States, England, Scotland and Wales given he barely played
this year after a six-month sabbatical and a broken leg sustained in the
Super Rugby final in August.
"That's the plan, I'm preparing to play," Carter told TVNZ, shortly
before the team left for the tour, when asked if he would be available
for the match with the US at the NFL's Chicago Bears' Soldier Field.
"I'm excited. I need to be realistic in my approach with the confidence I need to get back on the field."
Hansen also said he was 'excited' that Carter had said he was fit,
though he added with a wide grin that he would first need to be selected
for the match.
Carter has remained pivotal to Hansen's World Cup plans, despite having a
terrible run of injuries since the last global showpiece in 2011.
One of the reasons for his sabbatical from rugby earlier this year was
to allow him to have surgery on niggly injuries and work on his
conditioning to ensure he makes it to England next September.
Despite this season's injuries, Carter, who is widely considered the
best flyhalf in world rugby, is likely to be the starting pivot at the
World Cup with Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett, who shared the starting
role this season, in the back-up roles.
Local media had earlier reported it was unlikely Carter would start the
game against the Eagles next week, instead coming off the bench as
Hansen gives Cruden a chance to press his credentials.
Cruden was supplanted by Barrett as the starter for the latter part of
the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship after he was late for the
team's assembly time for their flight to Argentina following a boozy
night out and left at home by Hansen.
The 25-year-old Cruden was brought back into the squad for the third
Bledisloe Cup match in Brisbane last week but not named in the matchday
Hansen had previously said he hoped to use the tour to Test
combinations, tactics, preparation and logistics in a similar scenario
to one they would potentially face in the knockout phases at the World
As such, he is expected to experiment with some of his selections,
giving scrumhalf TJ Perenara, outside back Charles Piutau and openside
flank Sam Cane starts, while No 8 Kieran Read is expected to captain
the side at least once in place of Richie McCaw.
Code-swapper Sonny Bill Williams is also expected to get significant
playing time in order to assimilate him back into the 15-man game after
two years with the Sydney Roosters in Australia's National Rugby League