Who gets a 10 out of 10 at first five-eighths?

Rugby writer and historian Lindsay Knight has only one major regret about his latest literary effort, a celebration of New Zealand's champion first five-eighths, entitled 10.

He believes he may have under-rated the place of the position's present star, Daniel Carter, among the elite.

"The book was written a few months ago when it was obvious that Carter was destined to be among the greatest we've had in the position," Knight says.

"There was a qualification time still needed to assess him properly.

"But this year, with his game against the Springboks in Wellington and this week against England, I'd say all qualifications have ceased. Even at this stage of his career he has to be acclaimed inarguably as the best."

It's timely, therefore, that this weekend Carter will play against France. Two years ago, in just his third All Black test in the position, he had his first epic game as a first-five when he starred in the 45-6 win over France. Carter that day scored 25 points from a try, four conversions and four penalties.

This year's tests against France mark a centenary of international competition between the All Blacks and France and that's a reminder, Knight says, that the first significant first-five in All Black history, Billy Stead, played in the 1906 match.

Knight believes some historians appear to have overlooked Stead's influence on New Zealand rugby.

Knight says that until the ongoing rise of Carter, Stead deserved to be ranked in the forefront of All Blacks first-fives, with Mark Nicholls of the 1924-25 Invincibles and two of more modern times, Grant Fox and Andrew Mehrtens.

"I've avoided giving a pecking order in the book, simply suggesting these have been the four most influential," Knight says.

"Actually, it has been a position where New Zealand has not had too many world-class performers. But it's becoming increasingly plain Carter is number one. He appears to have no weaknesses."

Of other All Black first-fives, Knight rates the career of Auckland's Nicky Allen as the most tragic.

"Sadly, his early death meant he played only two tests and we never saw the best of a talent almost as rare as that of Carter."

* SuperSPORT has five copies of Lindsay Knight's 10 to be won. Correct entries to the following question go into the prize draw.

Name the All Blacks' starting first five-eighths for these tests in the order given: All Blacks v France, November 2004; All Blacks v France, October 1999; All Blacks v England, June 1995; All Blacks v France, June 1986; All Blacks v Lions, September 1966.

Entry deadline Wednesday, November 15, 5pm.
Answer by post or email.

Post: Answers supplied on back of envelope with return street address to:

10 comp
c/- Andy Hay
Sports department
New Zealand Herald
PO Box 32 Albert St
Auckland

Email: answers to sportrac@nzherald.co.nz with "10 comp" in subject field. Include return street address.

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