Carter eyes RWC, Euro double

2016-04-22 07:23
Dan Carter (Gallo Images)

London - New Zealand great Dan Carter, so often a thorn in English sides, will look to go one step closer to winning the World Cup and European Champions Cup in the same season this weekend.

The former All Blacks flyhalf is set to start for Racing 92 when the Paris-based club face English giants Leicester in a semi-final in Nottingham on Sunday.

Racing, in their first maiden major continental last four clash, are all that stand in the way of an English side being crowned club champions of Europe for the first time in nine years as Saturday's first semi-final is an all-Premiership affair between Saracens and Wasps.

Carter, the world player of the year and Test rugby's highest points scorer, has settled in superbly at Racing.

The 34-year-old, capped 112 times by the All Blacks, is expected to be fit after injuring his right knee in Racing's 19-16 quarter-final victory over Toulon that ended their French rivals bid to win an unprecedented fourth successive European crown.

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill has warned his side not to get fixated on Carter.

"Clearly Carter's a very important player for them, but I think it's a little bit naive to say we'll target Dan Carter and put him off his game," said Cockerill, looking to guide Leicester to a third major European title and first since 2002.

One of Racing's other attacking threats is Argentina wing Juan Imhoff.

An excellent finisher, as he proved at the World Cup, Imhoff is well aware of the threat posed by a Leicester side whose pack is set to include his Pumas colleague Marcos Ayerza in the frontrow.

"They have maybe the best scrum in Europe and they're solid in the backline," Imhoff said.

As for Ayerza, he added: "He's a true Argentinian prop...The best tighthead prop in the world."

Saracens are bidding to break new ground by becoming the first side ever to win the tournament without losing a pool game after sweeping through the group stage and beating Northampton, another English opponent, in the quarter-finals.

Reigning Premiership champions and leaders Saracens and current table-toppers are set to field a side containing several England Six Nations grand slam winners in Owen Farrell, brothers Billy and Mako Vunipola as well as lock forwards George Kruis and Maro Itoje.

The London club were beaten in the 2014 final and have lost all their other three appearances in the last four but director of rugby Mark McCall believes they are ready to put that bitter experience to good use.

"If you look all the way through our starting XV it's packed full of people who have come through our academy. They've shared one hell of a lot of experiences together," he said.

"A lot of good ones and the odd unbelievably disappointing one, but that has made them tighter and stronger. Hopefully, we'll see evidence of that on Saturday."

Once a London club, but now based in the Midlands, Wasps won a thrilling quarter-final when New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth's conversion with the last kick of the game sealed a dramatic come-from-behind 25-24 win over Premiership rivals Exeter in a match where fellow Kiwi Charles Piutau's two tries were also key to their victory.

Wasps, whose back-row is set to include Wallaby great George Smith, were the last Premiership team to be crowned champions of England again when they beat Leicester in an all-English final back in 2007.

"We know a lot about Saracens having had some big battles with them over the past few years," said Wasps' Ashley Johnson.

"The line-out is going to be very important, they have two quality second rows in George and Maro so it is going to be a real challenge."

Read more on:    dan carter  |  rugby

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