Dan Carter (AP)
London - Nobody in the New Zealand camp
will admit it, least of all the man himself, but if the All Blacks do triumph
in Saturday's Rugby World Cup final then the victory will be just that little
bit more special for Dan Carter.
The match will be Carter's 112th and last
test and is the chance for him to ink in the one missing line from his
otherwise glorious rugby CV. You would need a heart of flint, or be Australian,
to want to see him denied it.
The flyhalf is far and away the sport's
leading point scorer with 1,579. He has twice been voted world player of the
year, he has a remarkable 89 percent Test match winning percentage and his
33-point individual haul when New Zealand destroyed the British and Irish Lions
48-18 in 2005 is ranked by many as the finest performance by a flyhalf in rugby
He is appearing in his fourth World Cup,
alongside team mates Richie McCaw and Keven Mealamu, but while the three of
them all own a winner's medal from 2011, Carter's is unlikely to take pride of
place on his mantelpiece.
The flyhalf was looking in fine form in the
first two group games on home soil before a groin injury ended his tournament
and he watched the final from the stands.
It completed a hat-trick of World Cup
miseries after he also went off injured during the 2007 quarter-final defeat by
France and was an unused replacement when New Zealand lost to Australia in the
Since that 2011 heartbreak Carter has
suffered more injuries but has fought his way back to form and fitness and
while he may lack the explosive speed of his younger self, the 33-year-old
version remains the serene controller.
"Carter's genius as a player is his
completeness," former England coach Clive Woodward wrote on Friday.
"There is no obvious weakness, nothing
lacking in his skillset, no fault line to prey on and exploit. He can run,
tackle, kick and pass with the best. He has time on the ball, is never rushed
and does everything smoothly. He purrs along without apparent
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has seen
close up how hard Carter has had to work and said this week that his physical
setbacks had knocked him back mentally too.
"He had a horrific run of injuries
over a couple of seasons that took away his confidence," Hansen said.
"Before that everything he touched turned to gold.
"It's the mark of the guy how he's
come through that. A lot of people might have said 'enough's enough, I'll chuck
it in' but he stuck with it and he's got that inner confidence back.
"When you start to play well it's like
a snowball, and it gets bigger and bigger and all of a sudden it becomes an
avalanche. When he's like that he's a special player."
Hansen and his players have persistently
played down the fact that several veterans will be retiring after Saturday's
game and he suggested on Thursday that he had played a "big part" in
the 2011 success.
"Will he feel better if he gets to
play in the final? Of course he will," Hansen added.
"If we're good enough to win it he'll
feel better about that too."