Carter on brink of historic second Grand Slam
November 26, 2008
After helping New Zealand to see off Wales last weekend, Dan Carter is turning his attention to England © Getty Images
Dan Carter stands on the brink of a second triumphant grand slam tour inspired by New Zealand's success in weathering the player drain to Europe. The All Blacks faced an uncertain future with the post-World Cup exodus robbing them of proven internationals such as Carl Hayman, Chris Jack and Luke McAlister.
Lucrative contracts offered by European clubs have continued to weaken New Zealand's player pool and there are concerns it could deteriorate further. But the All Blacks have overcome the departures with astonishing ease, going on to win the Tri-Nations after enduring a difficult start to the competition.
Victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday would conclude their third successful clean sweep of the home unions and complete the healing process following last year's shock quarter-final exit from the World Cup. "I'm definitely surprised at how well the team has coped with the players moving overseas. For a new-look side it has been great," said Carter.
"We had our backs against the wall with two losses early on in the Tri-Nations but we fought back and won the title, which was superb. Hopefully we can keep working hard and get over that final hurdle against England. It would be a very successful year if we did that. Losing so many players was a little bit daunting but there was excitement over the guys who were coming through."
Only New Zealand could be robbed of virtually an entire Test XV yet still dominate Test rugby. Scotland, Ireland and Wales have all been swept aside this autumn and it would take an upset of epic proportions for Martin Johnson's troubled England to deny them the grand slam. Carter was also part of the victorious 2005 squad and the Crusaders fly-half believes a repeat would crown a superb season.
"Winning would be huge, going unbeaten on tour has been a real goal that we have been working towards," he said. "It would be good to be involved in an All Blacks side that has won two grand slams. To do that again would mean a lot to me. We are not trying to build things up because what happened at the World Cup was a bit of a disappointment.
"It would mean a lot for this team because it is quite a different side to what we had last year. Winning the Tri-Nations was a great step for us and this would top off a great season."
Hopes of seeing Carter duel with Danny Cipriani for the first time were dashed yesterday when England axed their fly-half and reinstated Toby Flood.
"It would have been good coming up against a young up-and-coming talent, but it's not to be," he said. "There is a lot more media attention in the UK, I guess we are quite lucky in New Zealand. While everyone is passionate about rugby in New Zealand they are keen to leave you alone off the field.
"Balance is very important. It's something I pride myself on. When I'm on the training pitch, in team meetings and playing, 100% of my focus is on that. And I always give 100%. "He will learn a lot from what's happened in the last couple of games. He's still young and there's no doubting his talent."