Former All Blacks great Dan Carter has laughed off speculation that he could be called upon to alleviate New Zealand’s injury woes in the first-five position for this year’s World Cup in Japan.
His injury-enforced absence from both Super Rugby and the national set-up exposed the All Blacks’ lack of depth at first-five, with incumbents Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga regarded the only New Zealand-based first-fives capable of playing test match rugby.
With no proven third-choice first-five to rely upon, many names were thrown around publicly as potential replacements for the electric 23-year-old.
Otere Black and Josh Ioane currently stand as the best domestically-based options outside of Barrett and Mo’unga, while some have called for New Zealand’s strict selection policy, which prevents overseas-based players from being picked for the national side, to be relaxed to make the likes of Aaron Cruden, Lima Sopoaga, Hayden Parker and 113-test Carter to be eligible for the World Cup.
However, speaking at Government House in Auckland on Wednesday to receive his ONZM for services to rugby, Carter rubbished any suggestions that he would be in line for a shock re-call to test rugby, with surgery on his neck five weeks ago set to keep him restricted to a neck brace for three months.
“I was having a laugh at that when I heard my name being thrown around,” the 37-year-old said.
“I think I can start contact training again in October. So I might be right for the semifinal or final … the first tackle in a big game like that would be quite entertaining.
“My focus is on recovering from this with the hope of finishing off my contract in Japan.”
Currently contracted with Top League club Kobe Steelers, Carter still has at least another year in Japan, but said he believes that New Zealand have enough resources to overcome McKenzie’s injury and maintain their current overseas selection policy.
“What they have got in place has worked well,” he said.
“Injuries are part of sport and as the coaches have said, you don’t want to dwell on injuries because that’s what happens. You just have to focus on the resources and the talent that you do have and work as well as you possibly can with the talent that you have got here.”
Carter also referenced the All Blacks’ ability to overcome injury adversity in 2011, where a string of injuries wiped out himself, Cruden and Colin Slade, leaving reject Stephen Donald to steer New Zealand to their first world title in 24 years from first-five.
“There is enough talent and guys that are versatile enough (to help cover),” he said.
“The coaches and selectors have been around for a while, they will be working on things behind the scenes as well to give them some security in case there are more injuries.
“We have been in that situation before and still won a World Cup and that gives us a lot of confidence.”
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