There’s no doubting that Dan Carter is just about the very best player of his generation if not the best player in the history of rugby. The all time leading international points scorer, Carter has been the catalyst behind one of the most successful teams to have ever played rugby, however is it time for him to now stand aside?
The issue here is that in virtually guaranteeing Carter a starting spot in the All Blacks side whenever he is fit, it is proving detrimental to the talent production line of fly halves in New Zealand. This week we have seen Gareth Anscombe opt to switch Waikato for Cardiff as he aims to lead the Welsh national side into the World Cup in 2015.
Whilst many in New Zealand won’t view the loss of Anscombe as too big of a blow to their national sides hopes, it is unfortunately indicative of what may still be yet to come. You only have to look at Australia right now to see how once the first few players move on the leak starts to become a tidal wave as players heads are turned.
Until recently the pull of the All Black shirt has been enough to keep most young players in New Zealand in the hope of one day pulling on the famous jersey. This still remains the case for the most part, however the lure of big money deals in France has proved too enticing for some All Blacks in recent years.
It now seems only a matter of time until the likes of Beauden Barrett has his head turned by a big money offer from France as he looks set to be third choice fly half for the All Blacks at the World Cup. This is despite him having been the stand out 10 in Super Rugby this season
The issue here is that it seems no matter how well the likes of Barrett play they are never going to be able to budge Carter from the starting 10 position before the World Cup. For any player that is infuriating, especially when they have proved themselves to be more than capable at club and international level.
The other key issue here is consistency within the All Blacks team. There’s no doubting that Steve Hansen has ensured they are one of the most well drilled teams in international rugby, however it doesn’t matter how settled a side is, when the key playmaker is changing every other game it makes it difficult to find a rhythm.
This has become even more apparent in recent seasons as Carter has missed a number of key games with injuries on top of a sabbatical meaning the current side have been more used to having Aaron Cruden leading the backline. Again not a huge issue for a well drilled side but still enough to unsettle the side slightly at a key time.
I’m not for a second suggesting Carter be dropped from the All Blacks, instead what I would propose is that he is temporarily (at least) dropped to the third choice spot in the pecking order for the number 10 jersey.
Should he prove he is able to remain fit for a significant period and find the kind of form he was displaying a couple of years ago then he once again becomes a contender for the starting shirt. Should he struggle for form or fitness however he would still be in the squad in order to help coach the younger players like Cruden and Barrett.
By making this tough choice now Steve Hansen would allow either Cruden or Barrett the opportunity to establish themselves as the key pivot the future All Blacks side can be built around. This would also provide the opportunity for other younger players to come into the setup with a genuine chance of making the side.
I hate to be the one to ask the question but do you think Carter should consider stepping aside before the World Cup?