Dan Carter is determined to make his Test comeback in a starting capacity when the All Blacks play the Wallabies next week.
It seems a no-brainer with incumbent flyhalf Stephen Donald battling for form at the highest level, but many feel Carter has been rushed back too soon.
After several outings in the New Zealand Cup with Canterbury, he has rejoined the All Blacks’ training squad and, fortunately for the Kiwis, has shown no signs of the Achilles injury that sidelined him for six months.
‘I feel like I’m ready to play at international level again,’ Carter told stuff.co.nz. ‘I am lucky with my experience to know what to expect and it is a huge step up from the New Zealand Cup, but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I was ready to play international rugby again.
‘I’m hopeful [of starting]. To be back in this environment is great but I really want to push to get out on the field [against Australia].’
The All Blacks go into this match after two consecutive losses to the Springboks. New Zealand are a different prospect when Carter is controlling proceedings, and while skipper Richie McCaw is confident of his ability he doesn’t expect miracles.
‘I presume he will be in the mix for next weekend which will be great. We have got to make sure that we make it easy for him to just go about what he does well,’ said McCaw.
‘We don’t expect him to come back in and be the miracle man. We have all got things we have got to make sure we get right.’
A serious injury often sees top athletes battling to capture their previous form, but McCaw confirmed the six-month layoff has had no adverse affect on Carter.
‘I think perhaps mentally he is even better than before. He has had a break and he’s pretty excited about getting into the rugby. I think from that point of view there is probably a silver lining about having a break like he has.
‘Physically he doesn’t seem any different to me. Every game he plays no doubt he will get better and better. What he did last weekend [in a club game] was pretty damn good.
‘Experience counts a fair bit and he’s in a pretty important position at 10 obviously. You have confidence in him. But it doesn’t stop the guys around him doing their bit well and helping him out.’
The All Blacks will name a 26-man travelling squad on Saturday night with the players leaving for Sydney on Sunday. Scrumhalf Piri Weepu is the only injury concern after he went down with an ankle injury at Wednesday’s training session.
Meanwhile, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans believes the return of Carter will bring out the best in his team.
‘The fact they have included him means they intend to use him,’ Deans told stuff.co.nz. ‘It will be great to play against him. It will be great to play against a full turn-out.
‘It’s good for everyone. It’s good for the public. It’s good for us. Hopefully it will bring out the best out of us.’