He’s been playing professional rugby since 2002 but Dan Carter admitted he still had nerves on the team bus as he began his season with Japanese side Kobelco Steelers in the weekend.

Carter returned from neck surgery to play his first match in 12 months as the Steelers opened the Top League season with a 50-16 over the Canon Eagles.

The match also marked the first for All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick during his Japanese sabbatical, and he managed to cross over for a try.

Carter, who was MVP in his last season for the Steelers, shared a video on social media after the win admitting he had nerves before the encounter.

“First competitive game in over 12 months,” he said.

“I was a little bit nervous to be honest. Going into that game on the bus wondering why I’m still playing, full of nerves. But when the game started, and even more so now the game has finished, I remember why I love this game so much. Really happy to be back playing again.

“The neck feels good. The head is still on shoulders which is good.

Carter scored a try and bagged a personal tally of 20 points after kicking and early penalty and six conversions.

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Carter wasn’t the only former All Black to run out this weekend, with All Black lock Brodie Retallick joining Carter at Kobe who also scored an 80th-minute try in his debut.

Recent captain Kieran Read made his debut for Toyota Verbitz but his side went down 31-29 to Yamaha Jubilo. Springbok fullback Willie Le Roux opened the scoring for Toyota but Yamaha proved to be too strong.

Ryan Crotty debuted for Kubota Spears in the midfield against Robbie Deans’ Panasonic Wild Knights, who featured Sam Whitelock and David Pocock. Panasonic ran eventual winners 34-11 with Japan’s World Cup hero Kenki Fukuoka scoring a double.

Former All Blacks Matt Todd, Richard Kahui, former Crusaders’ halfback Jack Stratton and midfielder Tim Bateman¬† were involved in an upset for Toshiba over the powerhouse Suntory Sungoliath featuring an Australian midfield with Samu Kerevi and Matt Giteau.

Kerevi scored a try while former Highlanders’ winger Tevita Li scored one and kicked goals for Suntory.

Liam Squire powered the Red Hurricanes to a win over Mitsubishi, scoring a double and the match-winning try to break a 24-all deadlock with just three minutes remaining. Marty Banks kicked the conversion to secure a 31-24 victory.

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This article first appeared on the NZ Herald and is republished here with further commentary. 

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