Nobody in the New Zealand camp will admit it, least of all the man himself, but if the All Blacks do triumph in today’s World Cup final (17.00 start) 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 per cent 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 history.
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 games on home soil before an 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 2003 semis.
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.
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 an horrific run of injuries over a couple of seasons that took away his confidence,” Hansen said.
“It’s the mark of the guy how he’s come through that. A lot of people might have said ‘enough’s enough’ but he stuck with it and got his confidence back.”
Third place play-off: Argentina vs S. Africa 13-24.
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