Wellington - The All Blacks’ class of 2016 have “extremely impressed” former flyhalf Dan Carter who is not surprised by the team’s ability to move on quickly after losing stalwarts to international retirement last year.
Steve Hansen’s side lost six veterans, including Carter and captain Richie McCaw, after their successful World Cup defence, raising suggestions the team would be vulnerable this year.
But the new-look side under captain Kieran Read swept Wales aside 3-0 in the Test series in June and appear as strong as ever leading into next month’s Rugby Championship.
“I was extremely impressed but it’s what I expected. They’re such a formidable outfit,” Carter told TVNZ yesterday. “All the talk of the players leaving, they were an experienced enough group with the same coaching staff. I knew they were just going to continue from the success at the World Cup. All the young guys stepped up and I’ve become a huge fan now. I can sit back and watch them and have really enjoyed the style of play in June.”
Carter, who joined French side Racing 92 after the World Cup, led the Parisian team to the European Champions Cup final in Barcelona in May and the Top 14 title in June. He was back in New Zealand for a short break before returning to France and was keeping tabs on his former Super Rugby side, the Canterbury Crusaders, one of four New Zealand teams to have qualified for the playoffs.
The Crusaders have a long journey to Johannesburg for a tough quarter-final against the Lions tomorrow but Carter felt they could pull through.
“Well and truly (a chance),” he said. “They won’t be all that happy with their form after the June series,” he added of their two losses in three games after the international window. “But they have got the team and experience to go all the way.
“It’s not easy having to travel to Jo’burg in such a short time frame but it’s an interesting competition and here’s hoping we can get four New Zealand sides in the semis. That’ll be great to watch.”