Crusaders' coach must wish he could have access to All Black's experience and skill now after rough start.
Dan Carter's last act as a rugby player was to hobble off Twickenham with yet another Achilles injury in his 100th test. His next is likely to be an appearance for his Southbridge club as he works his way back to fitness following his sabbatical.
Carter confirmed yesterday that he wants to play for the Crusaders after the June test break; first, though, he is keen to play a match or two in the blue and white hoops of his Southbridge club.
He has played only one senior match for his club: in 2009 against Hornby when his comeback from another Achilles injury - and sabbatical - drew thousands of spectators to Christchurch's Denton Oval.
The Crusaders play three matches after the test series against England - against the Hurricanes, Blues and Highlanders.
Carter's plans will be a boost for his country club and, potentially, the town of Leeston where it is based, but how Crusaders' coach Todd Blackadder must wish he could have access to Carter now after a torrid start to the season in which they have lost to the Chiefs and Blues and got out of jail against the Stormers.
The Crusaders' attack has been extremely poor, their lack of penetration showing in the fact their backs have scored only three tries in three matches. They have scored five in total. Colin Slade could earn a starting spot at No 10 against the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday, with Tyler Bleyendaal and Tom Taylor used at first-five with varying degrees of success.
Speaking in his role as an ambassador for the Wings for Life World Run event, which will raise money for spinal injury research, Carter said he was using his break to spend time with his family and work on his injury problems in order to extend his playing career. He had surgery on his Achilles tendon after his most recent problem during the All Blacks' victory in London in November.
"The training I've been doing has been pretty basic, just getting on top of a few things that have been holding me back for the last couple of years," he said.
The list is becoming extensive and is centred around his legs - calf, Achilles tendon, hamstring and groin. He also broke a hand before the France tests in June last year and injured a shoulder when dumped in a tackle by Springbok Bismarck du Plessis at Eden Park in September.
Carter reached a deserved 100-test milestone against England, but he limped there to a certain extent. His various ailments meant he played only six tests last year. "The beauty of this break is that you can train harder than you would if you were playing. When you're playing week in, week out, it's more about recovery and you don't get gains. It's more about maintaining [the body].
"I'm pretty keen to play a couple of Crusaders games after the test series so that's what I'll be working towards, [and] potentially a club game or two before then." Aaron Cruden will be the All Blacks No 1 first-five while Carter is away but the 32-year-old said he wasn't thinking about the June tests or how he might feel as he watched from the grandstand.
As for the Crusaders, he also gave little away, saying he had seen only their results. "It's a pretty stock standard start by the Crusaders, to be honest - typically slow. They'll be fine, I'm sure they'll get a lot better as the competition goes on."