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'Absolute magician': Dan Carter reveals the best coach he ever had

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)

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All Blacks legend Dan Carter named who he believes is the greatest coach he ever had throughout his illustrious playing career.


Carter was a key part of many successful teams led by numerous coaching greats throughout his glittering playing days, winning Bledisloe Cups, Tri-Nations and Rugby Championship titles and back-to-back World Cups under Sir Graham Henry and Sir Steve Hansen during his time in the All Blacks.

At club and provincial level, he also won three Super Rugby championships with the Crusaders under Robbie Deans, multiple NPC titles with Canterbury, two Top 14 crowns with Perpignan and Racing 92, as well as a Top League with Kobelco Steelers.

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However, when asked about who was the best coach he has had over his career, Carter named former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith while speaking on Newstalk ZB to promote his new book 1598.

Nicknamed ‘The Professor’, Smith was the All Blacks head coach from 2000 to 2001 before resigning after back-to-back losses to the Wallabies.

He returned to the New Zealand coaching staff in 2004 as an assistant under Henry, which coincided with Carter’s promotion to starting first-five in the same year.

From there, Smith oversaw most of Carter’s test career as an assistant with the team from 2004 right through to the 2011 World Cup, and then again for the 2015 World Cup.


“Absolute magician, absolute genius. I’ve never met anyone who works as hard as he does,” Carter told Newstalk ZB of Smith, who also part of the Kobelco coaching staff during Carter’s time in Japan.

“He challenges you, he gets the best out of you. He’s a good friend. He was a big part of my journey.

“It is really hard to nail one coach because I had so many amazing coaches with Steve Hansen, Graham Henry, Robbie Deans, some absolute legends of world rugby, but the fact that Smithy could drag me to Japan for a couple of extra years at the end of my career goes to show how important he was to me.

“It was an amazing way to play for Smithy in the last couple years in Japan.”


Speaking on the 2011 World Cup campaign, where they exorcised 24 years of heartbreak to claim their second title, Carter opened up on the freak groin injury he sustained at the end of training while kicking shots at goal ahead of a pool game against Canada.

He described the injury, which sidelined him to the remainder of the tournament, as “one of the hardest things” to deal with over his career and something that “made no sense” at the time.

The 39-year-old had been in great form in the All Blacks pool stage win over France and was looking to play a key part in rectifying the team’s quarter-final exit four years earlier, which included captaining the side against Canada for the first time.

“I am a firm believer in that things happen for a reason, but at that time in 2011, it made no sense at all. It was probably one of the hardest things to deal with in my career, such a serious setback like that,” Carter explained.

“Not just the seriousness of the injury but also the situation, being asked to captain the All Blacks earlier that morning and obviously having a Rugby World Cup in your home country in New Zealand.

“To be ruled out, I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. It was a really challenging time.

“Fast forward to where I am now, looking back, things do happen for a reason and it actually gave me a lot more determination for the following four years and really gave me huge focus to want to really push hard and finish on my own terms.

“Thankfully I was able to do that four years later.”

Asked on whether that injury changed him as a player, Carter explained that he returned with greater motivation than before, knowing that, at any time, an injury can take the game away.

He returned to international rugby in June 2012 in the New Zealand’s first game as world champions and put in a big performance at Eden Park as the All Blacks defeated Ireland 42-10.

A week later, a 79th minute Carter drop goal broke a 19-all deadlock in Christchurch and sealed a series win over Ireland, who the Kiwis would go on to beat 60-0 in the third test in Hamilton.

The All Blacks then went through the Rugby Championship undefeated before succumbing to a Bledisloe Cup draw against Australia in Brisbane. The only loss of the year came at the hands of England at Twickenham in the last test of the year.

“I came back hugely motivated,” Carter told Newstalk ZB.

“One of the proudest moments of my career was the season I had in 2012. To have such a serious injury, have some pretty dark times, to then being able to string together some performances together I was extremely proud of.”

That year, Carter won World Rugby Player of the Year award for the second time in his career after his first award in 2005, and then won it again for a third time in his final year of test rugby following New Zealand’s 2015 World Cup success.

“Whether I deserved it or not, to be nominated and win World Rugby Player of the Year the following year after such a serious injury was a really proud moment,” Carter said.

“I felt like I was back to playing to a level that I could be proud of. All the hard work was paying off.

“I felt that there was a lot more gratitude, in that things can get taken away from you pretty quickly, understanding that it’s not going to last forever, the fact that I was getting to the end of my career, a bit of criticism about injuries, ageing body, form and things like that.

“But, just having that constant mindset of just wanting to make the most of this final opportunity at the back end of my career to basically give it everything I’ve got, and I felt like I was able to do that and reap the rewards right at the end.”


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