Cape Town - All Blacks hero Dan Carter, a Nominee for the 2016 Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award, reveals in an exclusive interview with Laureus.com that he was persuaded to carry on playing when he was considering retiring ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Laureus Host: What does it mean to be nominated for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award?
Dan Carter: It’s a huge honour. Obviously I know quite a lot about Laureus and the amazing work that they do and the Awards Ceremony they have every year. It’s nice to be recognised for the year I had in 2015. It was a very special year, not only for me, but also for the All Blacks and to be a part of that was amazing. That was my fourth Rugby World Cup and I hadn’t had a lot of success in the three previous World Cups, and even two years out from 2015 there were a lot of doubts whether or not I’d actually make another World Cup. Though not many people noticed, I was pretty close to retiring from the game. But through friends and family, coaches and team-mates, they gave me a lot of confidence to stick at it and give it one more crack. I did that and I was extremely proud to be able to contribute to a very special side, the All Blacks 2015.
Question: What was your motivation in 2015?
Dan Carter: There were a few motivating factors. You know I don’t like listening too much to the media and the public and their perceptions, but I was getting bagged quite a lot. And then there was a lot of self-doubt about whether I was good enough, because I wasn’t playing many games through injury. I was giving my competitors a good chance, and they were playing well and I had a real lack of trust in my body, because I had so many injuries. For me it was just finishing this dream of mine to play for the All Blacks. If I could play for the All Blacks forever, I would, but unfortunately that’s not possible. I knew that I was moving to France and starting a new chapter of my life and I just wanted to finish on a high, and there’s no bigger high than playing in the World Cup and helping your team to win back-to-back World Cups. I think that’s what I’m most proud about – just being able to contribute to that very special team.
Question: Did you ever think you would become an All Black?
Dan Carter: It was always a dream of mine that first started in 1987 with the All Blacks World Cup winning side. I remember watching every single game in New Zealand and ever since then I wanted to be an All Black. But realistically I never really thought it would happen. So when that dream became a reality in 2003, it was the best day of my life and I never wanted that feeling to stop. What I love about that journey is being able to inspire other people, the youth, to live their dreams. I think it’s a very important thing to dream big and just work hard to be able to live those dreams.
Question: Would the 2015 All Blacks team be the best you’ve played in?
Dan Carter: That’s definitely right up there, and I don’t know whether it’s just the 2015 side, but it was the team the coaches brought together after the 2011 World Cup, so I think the success of 2015 almost started three years before that. We had some amazing years of undefeated seasons; to think we only lost three matches in four years was amazing. So I think the 2015 side was a reflection of all the hard work in the years leading up to that World Cup. This team was all about creating history. No other nation had won back-to-back World Cups; no other All Blacks side had won a World Cup outside New Zealand, so to be able to achieve that was a pretty proud moment, and yes, it was a pretty special team and I was thankful I was able to be a part of it.
Question: You closed your All Blacks career in a rather unusual way. Can you tell us how what happened?
Dan Carter: Yes, that was a bit cheeky. It was my last conversion and we were ahead by more than a try. Liam Messam ran on with the kicking tees and said ‘why don’t you kick it with your other foot?’. It brought back a conversation I had with Aaron Smith, our young half-back, before the tournament. He asked me if I had ever taken a conversion with the wrong foot? And I was like ‘no, but I’d love to, because as a kid on the back yard, I used to kick with both feet’. And he goes ‘well, imagine if it was in the World Cup Final, and it’s the last kick of your international career. Imagine how good that would be’. And then the moment came, so I thought why not, and kicked the conversion with my wrong foot. It was a great way to sign off my All Black career.
Question: As the greatest points scorer in international rugby, how do you view personal records?
Dan Carter: I don’t play the game to make records. It’s obviously very nice. I’m extremely proud to reach certain milestones throughout my career, but I think it’s more something that I’ll look back when I finally hang up my boots and finish playing and look back on my career and be extremely proud of. You know, I was just lucky enough to play for some successful sides to give me the opportunity to score so many points.
Question: The All Blacks have been nominated for the Laureus World Team of the Year Award. Why was Richie McCaw such an inspirational captain and so important to New Zealand rugby?
Dan Carter: Richie is an amazing rugby player, an amazing leader and I’m very fortunate to play most of my career – or my entire career – alongside Richie. I think the best captains are the best leaders around and they lead by their actions, and that’s exactly what he did. He was a guy that I was playing alongside and he would motivate his team-mates through his actions out on the field. He would put his body in some pretty dark places and put his body on the line more than anyone that I’ve ever seen. To have a career as long as he has is amazing, because obviously it’s a pretty demanding sport, but to play 148 Test matches for his country, is something to be really proud of and it just shows the character of the man and the drive, and the willingness to be the best. That was infectious. It rubbed off onto the team and it was a big part of the reason that All Blacks have been so successful through his era as captain.
Question: Why did you choose to come to play in France?
Dan Carter: I needed a change. I’ve been playing for the All Blacks and Crusaders for 13 years and I just felt it was time for me to be out of my comfort zone a little bit and try something new, so playing in France was a great opportunity. It’s an amazing competition to play in. It’s a very strong, tough, demanding competition, but also when you’re playing for the All Blacks, you’re not home very often and there’s a lot of travel. I have a young family now, so to be able to come and spend a lot more time with them, and in a different environment, it’s a great move, for my family as well, where I’m away a lot less than I would be if I was in New Zealand. I finished on the right note with helping the All Blacks win a World Cup in 2015, and this is just the challenge I needed. Racing has great ambitions for their future. They will want to be a top side in Europe, and it’s exactly where I’ve come from – it’s the same motivating factors playing for the All Blacks and Crusaders. They’re always wanting to win championships and be the best so I saw a lot of similarities with Racing and their vision. I have thoroughly enjoyed my short stint here so far, and I’m here for the next few years, so it’s going to be exciting.
Question: You have played in France before – is it a very different scene now?
Dan Carter: Yes, when I played for Perpignan in 2009 it was a very short stint and I always knew I was going back to New Zealand, so I didn’t really immerse myself in the culture too much, but now that I know that I’m going to be here for three years, it’s an exciting time for me, and a bit more of a chance to get to know the culture, and the cuisine, a lot more. And also just to be able to contribute more to the team, knowing I’m here on a long-term basis. So there’s a few changes probably in my attitude, compared to when I was here last time.
Question: Do you have a specific goal for yourself and the club this year?
Dan Carter: For me it’s all about enjoyment. Obviously, at the end of my career, I just want to enjoy every day. I’ve got the best job in the world, doing what I love, and getting paid to do that, and I consider myself extremely grateful and lucky to be in the position. So that I want to enjoy it and contribute to the success of Racing, and the team that I’m playing for. It’s a great side, haven’t won any titles in the last few years, so it would be nice to win something while we’re here, but obviously there’s a lot of hard work to be done before we can potentially look at achieving those things.
Question: Is it true that when you were injured in 2013, you were offered a job as a kicker for the New England Patriots?
Dan Carter: Yes and no. I went to visit the Patriots and I just thought I was going to visit the facilities, but the scouts had obviously done their homework and worked out who I was, and I’d kicked a few goals with a rugby ball, so they showed a bit of interest. It’s always been a bit of a joke of mine, being my retirement plan, hanging up my rugby boots and going to kick goals in American Football – couldn’t think of anything better. Letting my body recoup, not having to make tackles or take the ball into contact any more would be quite nice Just being paid to kick goals. I never really took it seriously. I think the media more than anyone made a big deal out of it.
Question: So we might still see Dan Carter in three years time in American Football?
Dan Carter: Who knows? If I stick to my retirement plan, then it might well be, but I’m very happy just playing rugby at the moment.