Gallaher Cup - New Zealand v France, Third Test
Dan Carter to polish game plan
June 21, 2013
Dan Carter is "coming into a new structure that he hasn't done before" © Getty Images
Dan Carter is set to add his worth after watching the All Blacks adapt to a new style of play in 2013. Set to earn his 95th Test cap, Carter has been waiting patiently to grab hold of the keys to the All Blacks backline while critiquing the opening two performances against France from the sidelines. With his right hand now fully operational - a cracked bone ruled him out previously - he will discover first-hand which parts of the new blueprint should be kept for the Rugby Championship.
"The big thing about Dan is he's coming into a new structure that he hasn't done before. That was the key reason he had to play," New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said.
A patchy win at Eden Park was used as a foundation to put together the subsequent 30-0 demolition in Christchurch, where Aaron Cruden's immaculate kicking game saw the All Blacks dominate territory and relieve pressure with good effect. An extension of that kicking strategy saw second-five Ma'a Nonu put his boot to work and set up a try in a performance that would have made former coach Wayne Smith a proud man.
Carter has been involved in discussions with Hansen and assistant coach Ian Foster about developments to the game plan, and he will look to make a few subtle alterations on Saturday. "[I share] my opinions and he also shares his as well, so there's a lot of open discussion with our thoughts and obviously just trying to work out what is best for the team," Carter said. "We're quite often seeing the same picture."
Should all go to plan, Carter will make way for Yarrow Stadium crowd favourite Beauden Barrett in the second half, with Hansen looking for all three of his playmakers to spend time getting accustomed to the new systems.
Cruden's near-perfect performances have many wondering how long Carter will remain the first-choice All Blacks pivot, but the 2005 IRB Player of the Year said his rival's efforts motivated him to develop himself further as a player.
"There's some healthy competition there which is good," Carter said. "It's not something I think about, I just bring it back to myself and what I can do to be the best player that I can be. It just continues my motivation to work hard out on the training paddock and keep refining my skills and just making the most of every opportunity I get. Although I haven't been able to run through it [game plan] in my position as much as I would have liked over the last couple of weeks I have been present at trainings and pretty close to the action."
Any analysis Carter has done of the French will be of little use, with Phillipe Saint-Andre opting to use his fourth halves combination in as many games on tour. Castres first-five Remi Tales will start opposite Carter after making his debut of the bench in the second Test at AMI Stadium. The 29-year-old was awarded for his outstanding performances during the French Top 14 season, which he capped with a pair of clutch dropped goals to win the final against a Jonny Wilkinson-led Toulon. Inside him at halfback will be Jean-Marc Doussain, whose one cap before the tour was as a substitute in the Rugby World Cup 2011 final.