Dan Carter still the man for big occasions
November 12, 2013
Dan Carter remains a fly-half without equal, Lynn McConnell believes © Getty Images
It is difficult to believe that so-called rugby opinion-ites in New Zealand are prepared to cut Dan Carter off at the knees, and some of the criticism delivered in the direction of the finest fly-half in the game's long history defies belief.
Carter, quite simply, is the best five-eighth anyone alive today will ever see wearing the All Blacks jersey. That it took more than 100 years of All Blacks rugby for him to emerge shows the rarity of players of his quality. There have been some fine first-fives from New Zealand, but none have been anywhere near matching Carter.
He cannot play forever, but his end is not near yet; not by a long way. Out with injury for much of the season, he may take time to rediscover the edge but, based on past evidence, that time is not far away. That much was clear from the quality of his goal-kicking in Paris and Tokyo. And given his ability to rise to the occasion, it will be no surprise if he reclaims his finest touch in a certain match at Twickenham this weekend.
Aaron Cruden has played well in Carter's absence, and Beauden Barrett has been splendid as his back-up; but as well as they have performed, they are not playmakers to equal Carter, and his 99 Test matches, in the All Blacks jumper.
Carter is slated to win his 100th Test cap at Twickenham this weekend, and it will be a great occasion. He has been a player who has graced the game with his skills, which have been appreciated around the world.
Dan Carter is set to win his 100th Test cap at Twickenham © Getty Images
Like many other senior players in the All Blacks side, this England Test is likely to have been at the back of their minds ever since their surprise defeat last year; such losses have driven All Blacks teams throughout their history. Traditionally, those most affected by the loss will play down their desire to respond in the most emphatic fashion. But the determination will be there.
That is something the young bucks coming through behind Carter do not appreciate. There is a time for the All Blacks, in the time-honoured tradition, to deal to matters; and this is one of them.
And that is something the doubters, who would deface classic pieces of art, or throw a brick through a stained-glass window out of sheer bloody-mindedness, need to remember. Class truly is permanent, and Dan Carter still has the ability to provide art on a rugby paddock at a level that few other players, if any, can match.
It was another bumper year of rugby action in 2014; join us as we take a look back at some of the season's top statistics
Salary caps, Saints, sinners and scrums - Monday Maul looks back at the key talking points from an eventful weekend
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14