'He likes a beer, he likes a laugh and he's nice company' - Hansen lauds Carter

The 33-year-old out-half ends his New Zealand career after tomorrow’s World Cup final.

Murray Kinsella reports from Twickenham

DAN CARTER HAS been rehearsing for the World Cup final since he was five years of age.

Neville Carter is the man New Zealand fans should thank if it’s the out-half’s goal kicking that gets the Kiwis over the line against Australia in tomorrow’s decider at Twickenham (KO 4pm).

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - New Zealand Kickers Session - Twickenham Stadium Carter was in jovial form ahead of the World Cup final. Source: Adam Davy

Carter’s father ploughed over the family’s potato patch beside their home in the town of Southbridge all those years ago, erecting full-size goalposts and providing his son with the perfect arena in which to begin amassing thousands of hours of practice.

“I won a few World Cups in my backyard when I was five or six years old,” said Carter with a smile at Twickenham this afternoon. “It’s something you loved to do, to put yourself in those positions.”

Carter says he hasn’t gone through that same mental process this week, instead sticking to a tried-and-trusted routine that has seen him kick at just under 80% during this World Cup.

Despite the much-publicised injury travails he has had in recent years, the 33-year-old has continued push himself towards exactly the position he always wanted to be in. It feels as if everything in Carter’s career has built towards this point, his first World Cup final.

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen doesn’t believe that tomorrow’s game will decide whether Carter is remembered as an all-time great. For the Kiwi mastermind, Carter’s place in the hall of fame is already secure.

“He’s enhanced the jersey,” said Hansen. “When you start out as an All Black, that’s one of the greatest things you can do. Can I improve this jersey from when I picked it up?

New ZealandÕs Dan Carter Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“And in his position it’s a pretty remarkable thing to be able to do, when you think about (Grant) Fox, (Earle) Kirton and (Andrew) Mehrtens – when those guys left they all said we couldn’t replace them.

“So, a little fellah from Southbridge has done that. He’s done it in a nice way, he’s a pretty humble bloke.”

Hansen lauded Carter’s ability to make tackles, suggesting that his willingness to put his body on the line – where ‘Foxy’ and ‘Mehrts’ perhaps hadn’t – has changed how out-halves around the world are viewed.

“He has raw courage, his goal-kicking has been great, and the other thing I admire about him is that he’s gone through a bit of adversity in the last few years,” said Hansen. ”It would have been easy, since he’s done everything in the game, to walk away and say ‘Well, enough is enough’.

“Instead, he wanted to finish playing well and he’s done that. He’s come back from those injuries and he’s in good form. The other good thing about him is he’s a normal, good bloke. He likes a beer, he likes a laugh and he’s nice company.”

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The disappointment of the 2011 and 2007 World Cups loom large in Carter’s career and tomorrow provides him with a chance to overwrite those difficult memories. In ’07 he watched on injured as the Kiwis fell to France, while in ’11 Carter was also sidelined as his teammates claimed the Webb Ellis trophy.

Dan carter celebrates Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The latter experience only added to Carter’s determination to stick around for another four years.

“Immediately after that I was pretty devastated but I knew I had a lot to add to New Zealand rugby. That’s why I re-signed a four-year deal immediately after that World Cup. 2012 was one of my better years in my career.

“In the back of mind after 2011, the reason I signed the four-year deal, was to give myself another chance at a World Cup. It was pretty far-fetched thinking, looking ahead, so that was always in the back of my mind, to be here.

“I just wanted to be a part of this side at the World Cup, it has been driving me for the last couple of years. It’s been pretty special to be a part of such a special side.”

Like so many of this crop, Carter moves on tomorrow – Racing 92 his destination – but it would be fitting for one of New Zealand’s best players of all to cap it off with a winner’s medal.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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