Does Dan Carter deserve the Player of the Year honour?
December 7, 2012
New Zealand's Dan Carter was named the IRB Player of the Year earlier this week © Getty Images
New Zealand's year may have been soured by their defeat at the hands of England in their final outing of the year but they could console themselves with the IRB awards for Team, Coach and Player of the Year.
A dazzling 13-game unbeaten run ensured there was little doubt that the All Blacks would claim the team award while coach Steve Hansen's success in his first year in charge of the side was also impossible to ignore. However, Carter's annointment as the best player on the Test match stage was not so straight forward with some questionning the short-list for the award. Tackling Rugby asks whether the IRB panel got it right.
ESPNscrum senior editor Graham Jenkins argues that the Dan Carter deserved his latest accolade:
This past season may not have been Dan Carter's best in a New Zealand shirt but what you need to remember is that an 'average' performance from the All Blacks' playmaker-in-chief is what most other fly-halves consider to be be near-perfect.
His New Zealand team-mates Richie McCaw and Kieran Read and Argentina's Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe may be able to lay claim to a similar level of consistency - and excellence - but as pivotal as they may have been this season, they do not wield the same amount of influence as Carter or make being so good look so easy.
The peerless No.10 will no doubt acknowledge the unstinting work of his pack but when given the ball he still needs to capitalise - be that a defence splitting pass or clinical kick - and that is something he manages time and time again.
Carter may have only made nine Test appearances this year but he still notched an impressive 135 points to extend his lead at the top of all-time standings. He slipped back into the old routine with a 17-point haul on his return to the All Blacks' No.10 shirt in the opening clash of the year against Ireland and he was at it again the following weekend before striking with an all-important drop goal to see off a brave Irish side.
He continued to rack up the points as the season continued but his influence extends far beyond the kicking tee - a fact hammered home by the numerous line breaks and the masterclass he offered in the victory over Scotland on the All Blacks' end of year tour that included a delightful chip to put winger Julian Savea away for a memorable score.
It wasn't an error-free year by any means with a loose pass leading to an intercept score in that same Scotland clash and a crucial missed drop goal in the 18-all draw with Australia just two examples of gambles that didn't pay off. But that is a small price to pay for the man with the key to unlocking the All Blacks' talent-heavy back division.
What makes Carter's contribution extra special is that it came just a few short months after the devastating groin injury that rocked a nation and brought a premature end to his World Cup campaign. His enforced lay-off and the pain of missing his side's eventual triumph will no doubt have been a huge motivating factor with subsequent calf and Achilles injuries adding to his woes but failing to take the shine off a stand out year.
ESPNscrum assistant editor Tom Hamilton believes the IRB got it wrong:
There is no doubting Dan Carter's immense ability - he is undoubtedly the best current fly-half the world over. But it has not been a vintage 2012 for the 30-year-old. He has arguably not been the best player in the All Blacks, let along in the world, and has missed five Test matches side this year.
Skipper Richie McCaw, who is now embarking on a well-deserved sabbatical, has missed just one match for the Kiwis this year - the omission was their comfortable win over Italy - and he was instrumental in their 20-match unbeaten run. He has never shirked a challenge and has been the standout openside on the world stage. Then there is No.8 Kieran Read. Although he missed out on the IRB Player of the Year shortlist, he too has put in a sterling shift on the Test stage sitting out just two matches. Flyer Julian Savea, who only took his test bow in June, has played nine times for the Kiwis and has crossed for an astonishing 12 tries. All three have put in match-winning performances throughout the 2012 Test calendar for the All Blacks and while Carter has put in some huge shifts when he pulled on the black jersey for the Kiwis, the other three have spread themselves more thinly throughout the year and to the overall benefit of the Kiwis.
Last year's well-deserved winner was France skipper Thierry Dusautoir who carried his team to the 2011 World Cup final. And if you are looking for a similar figure who has been the linchpin of his Test side then Juan Fernandez Martin Lobbe immediately comes to mind. He put in a series of inspirational and technically sublime performances for the Pumas during their maiden campaign in the Rugby Championship and should have been on the original shortlist. For whatever reason, he was omitted but Lobbe had a superb 2012.
There are other players who are also perhaps more deserving than Carter with Wales' Dan Lydiate warranting a mention after he guided Warren Gatland's men to the 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam. South Africa's Eben Etzebeth also shone for the Boks on the international scene and played 11 Tests since his debut against England in June.
Carter would walk into any world XV but if you are judging the 2012 Player of the Year on performances alone, rather than reputation and the weight of his name, then there are a group of players who can feel slightly aggrieved at having not collected the gong.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.