New Zealand
Dan Carter key to All Blacks: Brian O'Driscoll
ESPN Staff
December 23, 2014
New Zealand's Dan Carter attends the Laureus World Team of the Year nominees press interview, 2014 Laureus World Sports Awards, Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 26, 2014
Dan Carter is about to commence his final Test season © Getty Images

Dan Carter, specifically his goal-kicking, is crucial to New Zealand's Rugby World Cup title defence in England, Brian O'Driscoll says.

The retired Ireland and British & Irish Lions legend says "Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett have both been decent" during Carter's injury-affected return from sabbatical but the 102-Test veteran "takes it on to a different level and he kicks his goals better than both of them".

"If he's got the scoreboard ticking over, then I just can't see [New Zealand] being beaten," O'Driscoll said at a rugby session with teens in east London to launch the official partnership between Coca-Cola and Rugby World Cup 2015.

Carter only this week announced this week that he would remain in Europe after the Rugby World Cup, having signed an three-year deal with Paris-based Racing Metro worth a reported £1 million a year, and O'Driscoll expected he would do so after the All Blacks had become the first team back-to-back World Cup champions.

"If you can beat New Zealand, then you're probably going to win the World Cup," O'Driscoll said. "They're not even playing at their best this year, but they still have a Super Rugby campaign and a Rugby Championship to build towards the World Cup."

Carter, who is desperate to play a leading role for New Zealand at Rugby World Cup 2015, having featured in the failed 2003 and 2007 campaigns before a groin injury in practice during the pool stage curtailed his involvement in the 2011 title-winning run, said recently that the coming Super Rugby campaign would be "exciting" because the All Blacks had Cruden, Barrett and Crusaders team-mate Colin Slade as contenders for the No.10 jumper.

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"Getting to the end of my career, it's something that's driving me and I'd love to be a part of it," Carter said recently of his World Cup ambitions. "There's a lot of hard work to give myself a chance of being selected in that squad. The beauty is we've got four capable 10s so it doesn't matter who is playing. Everyone can slot in. We all work extremely hard together when we're in the environment to give everyone a good crack."

O'Driscoll, meanwhile, hailed the skills of New Zealand players, saying "I don't think the gym-monkey thing applies to them as much as it does over here".

"There is way more of a focus in New Zealand from an early age on skills," O'Driscoll said. "They do everything with a ball. They do all their fitness work with a ball and that's why they have better skill levels. That's where New Zealand have the balance. They have that physicality, but they are able to mix their game up."

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