Dan Carter laughs a lot these days. He says he's in England to enjoy himself, which he has.
There's not the tiniest sign of him carrying doubts or anxiety. His Twitter account reads like a man at ease with the world and even on the field last week in Newcastle, when the injured Richie McCaw brought the kicking tee in his capacity as water boy, Carter asked the captain to tell him a joke.
This inner peace Carter has found may be the result of making a conscious decision to enjoy himself, but more likely it's because he's realised he can still play the game that made him a household name.
That Carter was able to have a bit of fun with McCaw is a good sign the All Blacks' playmaker is in the right head space.
When he was at the peak of his powers, he played in an almost paradoxical mental state of being intensely focused yet supremely relaxed - best typified when the All Blacks played Ireland at Croke Park in 2008.
A crowd of 83,000 were deathly silent when he took his first penalty. As he lined it up, a lone Irish voice shouted from the top of the towering stand: "Carter ... you're shoite."
The simplest of kicks was pushed wide as Carter had a fit of the giggles. He spent the next 78 minutes systematically pulling the Irish apart in a performance that was world class.
It has been a long time since Carter had the confidence to be his old self and, for a while - maybe the last three years - everyone wondered whether he ever would be. Even Carter.
Between 2012 and 2014 he didn't manage to play more than three consecutive tests. The injuries kept coming - a broken hand, a broken leg, a badly damaged shoulder and a ripped calf muscle were the worst of it. No one would have backed him to walk the dog in that period and come home in one piece.
His form mirrored his involvement. Not even a player with his natural gifts can reach the peaks without consistent game time and three things happened after the last World Cup.
The first was that the legend of Carter became harder to appreciate. Not tainted or diluted, just pushed back in the memory. Second was that the All Blacks learned to play and win without him.
When he was ruled out of the 2011 World Cup, the angst of the nation was palpable. Inside the All Blacks camp it was worse. They say the news of Carter's ripped groin was met with stoicism and the sort of practical, "these things happen" response that won the Allies the war, but it took 24 hours for that to happen.
In the immediate aftermath the mood was sombre, almost as if the All Blacks' World Cup dream had died with Carter's.
And the third thing, maybe the most significant of all, was that Carter lost a little piece of himself.
Before 2011 he'd played with a sense of entitlement. He knew he owned the game, it was just a case of how he was going to lodge his claim. After, there was a more calculated feel to his work. He started to look like a playbook first-five - following a manual that he probably had no idea was there in his first 10 years as an All Black.
Whether it was a lack of confidence, a loss of speed and agility or a desire to fit in with what he thought the new coaching team wanted, Carter's running game vanished.
In his frequent injury-enforced absences, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett developed. While they offered the All Blacks the running threat Carter didn't, they couldn't match the older man for tactical control, goalkicking and game management.
The All Blacks have never been an either/or sort of team - their excellence is built on the totality of the individuals. Since 2013, the selectors have had to hedge their bets in regard to what the picture would look like at the World Cup.
Would Cruden and/or Barrett learn enough about the tactical arts to sit as the foundation to their obvious running talents, or would Carter rekindle his running game to ice the foundation of his strategic genius?
The All Blacks wouldn't be comfortable coming to a World Cup with a significant flaw in their preferred No10, but it looked like earlier this year they may have had to compromise. Cruden was ruled out because of a knee injury and Barrett couldn't convince at the Hurricanes with his control and tactical reading.
Carter, as always seemed likely, was given the No10 jersey but he didn't do much to suggest he was going to tick that last box. He was Dan Carter-Lite - operating as a reduced version of his former self with the coaches trying to market the thing he was missing as something no one really needed.
The All Blacks, however, did need him to be a threat when he carried the ball - to open space for the real danger men such a Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea and Ben Smith.
It all changed at Eden Park in mid-August when, in what was his last test on New Zealand soil, he wound back the clock and carved a giant hole in the Wallaby defence. Suddenly the reticence was gone; he was backing himself.
It wasn't quite vintage Carter, but it was enough to see he still had something left. Enough for him to believe he can finally do what he has craved for 13 international seasons and play a starring role for the winning team at a World Cup.
"I think it shows how much he's wanted it," says All Blacks coach Steve Hansen of what Carter's selection to play France means.
"A lesser person probably would have given up a couple of years ago when he was really struggling with injuries. And to be fair, most players have to struggle through injuries if they hang around for long enough, and early in his career he didn't get any.
"Latterly they came, he fought his way through that and now he's able to play and we are starting to see that confidence come out on the park. He's a world class player when he's like that."
How a story ends often carries more weight than how it starts. The laziness of memory leaves humans dwelling on the last thing they saw not the first. Everyone has an ego so Carter will care how history judges him. And the answer to how he'll be remembered is not yet definitive, as his career has fallen into two distinct parts: pre-2011 and post.
There's no difficulty in judging him during the former. From the moment he was switched to first-five in late 2004 to the day he ripped his groin at the last World Cup, Carter was the greatest No10 in New Zealand history.
The best judges of that are fellow teammates and when Ma'a Nonu is asked whether he's played with a better No10, he says: "Do I have to answer that?" for fear of offending the other 10s he's played alongside.
"No... I don't think so. When he's on... you know..."
The debate is barely worth having - Carter was that good. He'll always be remembered for the second test against the British Lions when he scored 33 points. It's not like anyone who saw it could ever forget it and Carter's playmaking partner Sunday, Aaron Smith, was one of the legions of young New Zealanders who were spellbound by the magic of the All Black No10 that night.
"Me and my dad went into the ballot and we got tickets on the halfway," he says. "I think I was about 14 and Dan blew up that night. That was the first test I ever watched and it was pretty cool to be there.
"It cracks me up how people doubt someone like that. They give him a lot of stick. It is just crazy. He is the greatest 10 who ever played."
The 48-18 victory, which clinched the test series, heralded the arrival of a rugby superstar. The big picture tells what Carter went on to do. He played 85 tests; scored 1250 points which came from 29 tries, 224 conversions, 215 penalties and four dropped goals.
But it's the micro detail that has to be understood to evaluate the influence of Carter in that period up until 2011.
There were long range goal kicks at crucial times that changed the momentum. There were half breaks that set up others for tries. There were game changing tackles; touchline conversions that sunk opposition hearts.
Statistics can't do justice to what be did and nor do they reveal how he handled international stardom with the ease with which he split an opposition defence. The All Blacks took the boy out of Leeston, but never Leeston out of the boy.
Growing up, Carter was exposed to classic Kiwi values of hard work, honesty and humility and when he left home, he took all those with him and never once forgot from whence he came.
"He has had a lot of criticisms and he's a guy who is a superstar off the field as well which is why he's much loved and respected by the team," says Nonu.
"He's so humble, so relaxed that you just wouldn't pick that this guy is a superstar," says Smith.
"Hanging around him he's so relaxed and so calm. In front of the team he talks really quietly. In front of a team you'd think you'd have to be dominant but when he speaks, people listen straight away. He has an aura about him that only certain people can project and carry and he's one of them.
"He can speak at any volume he likes and everyone will listen."
Post-2011, Carter has been the same person but not the same player. He's only managed 24 tests in four years and hasn't scored a try in that time. His average points per game has dropped from nearly 15 to 12.5 and the micro detail also comes up short - the blistering line breaks and deft touches haven't been seen in anywhere near the same volume.
When the two parts are melded, it's tricky to make an overall conclusion, which is why Sunday's game in Cardiff carries such personal significance. He's been to three previous World Cups and each one has contained an element of personal or team catastrophe - sometimes both.
There are so many reasons, then, why he wants to play well against France. He knows that if he delivers, the chances are high that so too will the All Blacks and he cares deeply about this team.
He owes it to himself after working so hard to overcome so much and he would probably like to go some way down the road of expunging the memory of 2007. Somewhere in the back of his mind there will also be the knowledge that a good ending will remove the ambiguity about his career - that in time, it will seem less like there were two distinct parts to it.
"As a young player pound for pound he had one of the best fends in the game," says Hansen.
"A great boot and, as a defensive player, as a No10, he has been one of the better ones. I can only think of a couple who would be up there with him - Jonny Wilkinson was a great defender.
"He's a great reader of the game like [Stephen] Larkham and [Andrew] Mehrtens and Wilkinson I guess. He's been one of the best, if not the best of all time."
Hansen prefaces his evaluation with a reference to Carter pre-2011. If Carter delivers Sunday and for as long as the All Blacks stay in this tournament, there will be no need for anyone to preface their judgment of Carter. It will be definitive - he will rank as the best No10 of all time.
The Dan Carter File
• Name: Daniel William Carter
• Age: 33
• Born: March 5, 1982, Southbridge, Canterbury
• Height: 178cm (5ft 10)
• Weight: 94kg
• Relationship: Married to Honor Dillon (2011)
• Children: Marco James Carter (March 28, 2003) and Fox William Carter (April 3, 2015)
• Test debut: Wales, Hamilton, 2003.
• Test points: 1552
• Test caps: 109
• Provincial: 28 caps and 289 points for Canterbury
• Super Rugby: 141 caps and 1708 points for the Crusaders