Sabbatical pays off as Carter returns to New Zealand squad

Carter returned to Super Rugby in late June following a six-month break to have surgery and work on his conditioning after a series of niggling injuries that had placed his participation at next year’s rugby World Cup in England in doubt.


Carter, 32, has been playing at inside centre, where he started his international career before shifting to flyhalf in 2004, for the Canterbury Crusaders but has looked composed and sharp in his appearances to date.

“I’ve got no problem with him playing 12 (inside centre) for the Crusaders because that’s the best place for him to be playing in that team,” Hansen told reporters in Christchurch.

“The pleasing thing is he looks really sharp, his body’s allowing him to do the things we expect him to be able to do and he wants to be able to do.

“When you look back to what was happening to him prior to that it was frustration after frustration after frustration.

“He couldn’t string three games together. He’s now done that, he looks good, he looks sharp.

“The next step is the test arena and we’ll see how he goes there.”


Outside back Charles Piutau and openside flanker Sam Cane, who both missed the June series against England due to injury, were also recalled to the side.

Cane’s return, after he was ruled out of the series against England the week of the first test with a fractured kneecap, had also been expected even though Matt Todd had been playing well for the Crusaders in Super Rugby.

Todd’s form forced All Blacks captain Richie McCaw to switch to blindside flanker for the Crusaders’ Super Rugby semi-final victory over the Sharks last Saturday.

Hansen, however, said that Cane had been recalled because of his previous performances as McCaw’s understudy in the All Blacks’ number seven jersey.

“In the past when people are injured and have played as well as Sammy has played (for the All Blacks), we’ve always supported them,” Hansen said. “We’ve got a philosophy that you can’t lose any ground when you’re injured, you lose the ground when you’re on the playing field.”

Auckland Blues loose forward Steven Luatua has also earned a recall to the squad after he had dropped out of national contention altogether ahead of the June tests before coming into the side as late injury cover.

Canterbury Crusaders prop Joe Moody will come into the squad as cover for Tony Woodcock, who has a shoulder injury and is expected to miss the start of the Championship.

Hansen has also gambled with his options at hooker by naming just two in the 31-man squad. Dane Coles is likely to cement the starting position with 35-year-old veteran Keven Mealamu playing a role off the bench.

Hansen has been hunting for a third hooker since Andrew Hore retired last year. Liam Coltman and Nathan Harris were given wider training squad roles this year but neither have been elevated to the official squad.

Harris will continue to train with the squad as part of an “apprenticeship” scheme during the All Blacks’ domestic tests during the Championship, while Wellington Hurricanes hooker Motu Matu’u will join the squad for a two-day camp later this week.

Hansen is expected to give a third hooker an opportunity on an end of season tour where the All Blacks play the United States in Chicago en route to Britain where they face England, Scotland and Wales.

Lock Luke Romano, who broke his leg earlier this year, was not considered for the southern hemisphere competition, which also includes South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

The All Blacks open the defence of their title against Australia on Aug. 16 in Sydney, where they will be looking to achieve a record 18th successive test victory.

(Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)