Carter aims to crown Racing season with win

2016-06-23 08:31
Dan Carter (Getty)

Paris - All Black legend Dan Carter is hoping to crown his debut season at Racing 92 with a victory over fellow league heavyweights Toulon in the Top 14 final in Barcelona on Friday.

Carter was part of the Perpignan team that won the Top 14 back in 2009, but the 34-year-old endured an injury-hit season then, turning out in just five games for the Catalonian club.

The 112-time capped New Zealand playmaker, the highest scorer in Test history, has been in imperious form for Racing since his arrival after steering the All Blacks to World Cup glory, a calm yet exacting style of play gelling the star-studded Parisian team.

The one blip came when he risked a calf injury and started the European Champions Cup final. Obviously suffering, Carter limped off early in the second half of a game eventually easily won by Saracens.

The fly-half has since come roaring back to life, most recently landing an extra-time conversion to edge out Clermont (34-33) in last weekend's Top 14 semi-final.

With France hosting the European football championships, Friday's final will be held in Barcelona's Camp Nou, the first time it has ever taken place overseas, and Carter said the Catalonian city brought back good memories.

"It was like my second home when I was living in Perpignan, it's a great place and to have such an important rugby game there is going to be amazing," Carter said.

"It's a historical game, I'm extremely proud of the team to get there, but we go there for a reason: to try to win.

"It means a lot (to reach the final). Obviously to experience it (in 2009) was great, but I didn't play."

Carter's Racing will come up against a Toulon side boasting Australian playmaker Matt Giteau but not his own ex-international team-mate Ma'a Nonu.

Nonu, 34, was knocked out in an accidental high-impact collision with New Zealand compatriot Anthony Tuitavake in last weekend's 27-18 semi-final win over Montpellier.

He was immediately replaced having scored one of his team's tries and despite coming round, Toulon manager Bernard Laporte said that under current concussion protocols, Nonu has not had enough time to fully recover.

He will be replaced in Friday's final by powerful French centre Mathieu Bastareaud who will play alongside Maxime Mermoz.

Toulon, Top 14 champions in 2014 and runners-up in 2012 and 2013, will have revenge on their mind after being beaten by Racing in the European Cup quarter-finals as they attempted to record a record fourth consecutive continental title.

They won their sole previous French championship final against Racing, battling out a 15-12 victory way back in 1987.

Only two tries were scored in that encounter, and should Friday's match come down to kicks, Carter has more than a match in British and Irish Lions star Leigh Halfpenny.

The Welsh fullback made a timely return to action after a debilitating knee injury that saw him miss the World Cup by booting 17 points in Toulon's victory over Montpellier.

"I was just absolutely delighted to be back out on the field playing with the boys," Halfpenny said.

The victory over Montpellier "was a big game for this club and a fantastic achievement that we've made the final, but that's not it for us, we want to go on and win the trophy, the Bouclier Brennus", he said.

"It's huge for us as a team, it was our goal at the start of the season and now we have an opportunity to do that, although we have difficult opposition in front of us.

"It's going to be a huge challenge. Racing are a very good team and we'll have to be at our best on Friday. We need a good week of preparation leading into that game.

"For us as a team it will be a huge occasion and one that we need to go out and try to enjoy."

Read more on:    racing 92  |  dan carter  |  rugby

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