Carter's sabbatical moved forward?
Sun, 17 Nov 2013 07:39
I've sort of been carrying it for a couple of weeks
New Zealand centurion Dan Carter will undergo a scan on his Achilles to find out the extent of the injury, but he may well have already started a six-month sabbatical.
The All Blacks have set themselves up for an unbeaten season - when they face Ireland next weekend in Dublin - but yet again Carter looks set to sit out the triumphant march on the sidelines.
New Zealand's 30-22 win over England at Twickenham on Saturday was meant to be Carter's big day, but celebrations at winning his 100th Test cap have been tempered by the knowledge his tour may be over.
The All Black flyhalf aggravated a lingering Achilles injury in the first-half, leaving the field after just 25 minutes - to see Aaron Cruden fill the breach once more in the No.10 role.
Carter was grinning post-match, but disappointed, having watched his side finish another big match without him.
"I'm just so happy we came away with the win. I was so nervous sitting there on the sideline," Carter said.
"I just felt my Achilles going into contact, pushing off it. I've sort of been carrying it for a couple of weeks," he said.
All Black coach Steve Hansen said Carter's participation in the Test against Ireland will depend on the results of a scan.
"He has hurt his Achilles, not the one he ruptured years ago but the other one," confirmed Hansen.
"It has been rumbling away for a while and he's obviously very sore. It's not ruptured I wouldn't think, but we won't know that until we get some scans.
"It is disappointing for him again, he's had a wretched time with injuries, but he made a major contribution in the time he was on, he kicked really well, put us in the right places and to achieve 100 caps is no mean feat.
"The style that he's achieved them in, there are not too many bad performances in that 100, so he should be pretty proud of himself."
Carter was not the only casualty from the Twickenham Test, with prop Tony Woodcock pulled his hamstring just before halftime and is unlikely to play next weekend.
If the All Blacks beat Joe Schmidt's Ireland side they will become the first top tier team to go through an entire year unbeaten since the game went professional in 1995.
Carter has been dogged by a series of niggling injuries over the last few years and made just his sixth appearance for the All Blacks in their 13th Test match of the year at Twickenham.
A broken hand kept him out of Tests against France in June before a calf injury saw him miss matches against Australia in the Southern Hemisphere's Rugby Championship.
Carter, who has been granted the sabbatical by the New Zealand Rugby Union, said earlier this year he had considered playing overseas on a short-term contract, but felt the time would be better spent having a total break to sort out his injuries and conditioning.
If it is confirmed that he will miss the year-ending encounter with Ireland, he will not play again until after next year's June international series when England visit New Zealand for a three Tests.
But a week in bed and a night in hospital with a lung infection left Julian Savea slimmer and onlookers breathless at his two-try display.
"I was lucky enough to be in this position and finish off the off-loads from the team," Savea said.
"I was happy just to get out there."
His second try from Ma'a Nonu's off-load was business as usual for the coach.
"When you play like we do every week those things are happening every week so they're not that 'wow'," Hansen said.
Once again though this week, the All Blacks struggled to get it right at the breakdown as referee Craig Joubert took a strict line with tackle release.
He is not the first to do so and won't be the last.
"So we have to adjust and stop giving away silly penalties because that's what kept England in the game in the end. Our discipline at times was average," Hansen said.
Skipper Richie McCaw was satisfied with the result but admitted their play lacked polish.
"It was by no means perfect, don't get me wrong on that but Test matches...when you've got 15 guys trying to stop you from playing, it's about winning the moments, more moments, and taking opportunities. And I thought we did that pretty good."
The All Black lineout steals stood out, as did the half-century for senior lock Sam Whitelock.
"Hopefully one day it's on a bottle cap - who played his 50th game when Dan Carter played his 100th, that'd be pretty cool," Whitelock said.
Clearly the pressure on the All Blacks has lifted, just for a moment, after winning a real battle for redemption at Twickenham.
As for the Twickenham Test, Hansen said it was one where both teams had their good and bad patches.
"If you broke the game down into quarters, the first 20 [minutes] we controlled, the next 20 they controlled, the next 20 was shared and we managed to get back on top, started to really dig into their line out ball and with the few scrums we had, we started to put some pressure on them.
"It was really pleasing from our point of view, but mentally we were in front for a lot of the game and then saw our lead slip away.
"When that happens that can play on your mind, but it didn't, the guys stayed in process, stayed connected with each other and came out on top."
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