Chris Rattue on sport

The latest sport analysis and comment from Herald columnist Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue: Does Carter still have the legs?

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Dan Carter made his return to the Super 15 last weekend. Photo / Getty Images
Dan Carter made his return to the Super 15 last weekend. Photo / Getty Images

A pupil pointed the way for the master in the dramatic finish to the Super 15 thriller at Eden Park.

All Black legend Dan Carter was miles away, preparing for the Crusaders' long-awaited homecoming in Christchurch, when young Hurricanes mop-top Beauden Barrett cut the Blues down with a last-gasp counter attack. Carter's future did cross the mind though as Barrett zoomed up field.

Carter's own comeback - after his heartbreaking World Cup injury - poses the question: does the fabulous first five-eighths still have the legs to keep ahead of the young guns and carry him all the way into the 2015 World Cup squad? And if he doesn't, when will this baton change hands in what would be a famous handover?

It's hard to recall the last time Carter ran the way Barrett did last Friday night, although the rising star will face more ferocious defending than the Keystone Kops impersonators who didn't exactly make it hard for him to link with Conrad Smith.

There are elements to Carter's game that will likely never be bettered in the No10 jersey, and that includes an immaculate defensive technique which he conducts without exposing himself to a battering.

Carter's running game has been on a wane though and will be further challenged by age on top of two major leg injuries. Barrett and Aaron Cruden offer such exciting possibilities in attack, and the new All Black coaches Steve Hansen and backs specialist Ian Foster face a tricky point in deciding who to base their next World Cup plans around.

It would be fascinating to see Carter make a bid for that 2015 squad - when he would be a not-too-stately 33 - and thus have a chance to lay the 2011 disappointment to rest. Yet the attacking gifts of the two major up-and-comers are just as enticing as the prospect of Carter pushing on because either could take the All Blacks to another level of enterprise.

With or without Carter in the medium term, Barrett versus Cruden is a contest to savour in itself, an update on the Andrew Mehrtens-Carlos Spencer debate, although Barrett might be considered a second five-eighths prospect the way Carter was in his early career.

As this story develops, it would be no surprise to see a Cruden-Barrett inside back combination put forward as an option. The early, tentative money is on Barrett as the No10 of the future although the jury is not in a good position yet.

KAINO'S EXIT A JOKE

Jerome Kaino's exit to Japan is a sporting joke because Japanese rugby is a joke in international terms. Kaino - a superstar of world rugby - is only 28 for goodness sake, far too young to spend a couple of seasons in the superannuation-slash-retirement home. The big-spending Japanese rugby corporate mobs are pariahs - they almost lured the rugby league whiz Benji Marshall a couple of years ago which would have been a disaster for that sport. The Japanese seek the world's best without a competition remotely good enough to match. Some players love Japan and some hate it. The bottom line is none would have gone but for the money. Kaino could have tested himself and scored big in Europe's vibrant rugby atmosphere and tough forward zone. Yes, yes, yes ... money, money, money. But it's still staggering the hard nut Kaino chose Japan. On pure sporting terms, his decision makes as much sense as trying to put porridge into sushi.

WELCOME BACK COTTER?

Blues CEO Andy Dalton is defending Pat Lam, but who is defending Andy Dalton? The Blues team which took on the Hurricanes is the most dishevelled outfit to have worn the colours. The Blues should field a team full of All Blacks or test contenders, but instead have a host of blokes closer to winning Lotto than a black jersey. Some, like the admirable but limited Lachie Munro, are provincial grade only. This sad state of affairs is down to lamentable recruitment, scouting, development and coaching and the fault goes back a lot further and higher than Lam. But Lam has failed to right the ship. As for possible replacements ... the former Bay of Plenty coach and Crusaders assistant Vern Cotter shaped as a fine prospect but the failed All Black applicant was re-appointed by the French club Clermont. He's worth keeping on the radar though.

KIWI LEADERSHIP CRISIS

The Kiwi leadership has a lot more on the mind than the April 20 test against Australia at Eden Park. Coach Steve Kearney is doing the lead balloon at Parramatta, and captain Benji Marshall's Wests Tigers have stalled. The Kangaroos' coach Tim Sheens is also the Tigers boss but has vast experience to fall back on whereas the under-siege Kearney has an Eels team playing with little hope of a turnaround.

BATTERING AT BASIN

Events at the Basin Reserve have confirmed one aspect about cricket - it is a dangerous game. Two very fine batsmen, Hashim Amla and Ross Taylor, were laid low by the flying cherry.

IN ANOTHER LEAGUE

Sky's television cricket team sets the highest commentary standards in New Zealand. While Martin Crowe is still badly missed, lead acts Simon Doull, Ian Smith and co. have been strong again and Mark Richardson, Craig McMillan and Shane Bond etc have grown into their roles.

Cricket lends itself to good commentary and produces former players with the nous and cricket-obsession to deliver. Barry Richards - the legendary South African opener - has been quite low-key but on-the-mark and interesting. All is not overly-well in the rugby league commentary section though. I was among those pushing for the removal of studio veteran Stephen McIvor after his debut last year, but while replacement Dale Husband is borderline okay, he sounds nervous or hesitant which is not a good trait. There is a lack of well-timed dramatic delivery with Husband. Callers like the Aussie Ray Warren have the knack of giving matches a sense of occasion, and this is one of the commentary problems coming out of Mt Smart Stadium.

Why oh why was the hyperbolic Aussie Jason Costigan dropped? The Steeden Kid saw too many crabs and halftime oranges but he had a sharp play-by-play mind and delivered excitement. Sky got rid of him without an adequate replacement. Maybe I'm in a minority of one, but the distinctive Costigan was actually terrific for the NRL although his style didn't work for test matches. (And why, having sacked Costigan, has league identity-turned-union caller Ken Laban not been given a crack?).

Commentary is subjective of course. My advice to Dale Husband: get loose, rise to the occasional great moments and enjoy the game. All is not lost, although he would be helped if Daryl "Bovver Boy" Halligan - a good analyst - didn't trip over his own tongue so often. Then again, a Herald league nut can't stand Halligan and reckons he isn't biased enough in the Warriors' favour. Commentary is a difficult art - guess you can't please them all.

I've even heard someone utter the immortal words - "Bring Back McIvor".

- NZ Herald

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