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Dan Carter ‘challenging perceptions’ as Super Rugby returns to New Zealand

Dan Carter is kicking into touch the perception that rugby players should be finished by their mid-thirties, according to former Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip.

Veteran superstar Carter has agreed to join the Blues ahead of the Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign, with the Auckland-based side hoping some of his magic rubs off on their young players.

At the age of 38, Carter is unlikely to start every game, but the Blues seem bound to benefit from having international rugby union’s record points-scorer in their ranks.

The former Crusaders fly-half is back in New Zealand after spells with Perpignan, Racing 92 and Kobelco Steelers.

“It’s great and long may it last,” Heaslip told Stats Perform News.

“There used to be a thinking that when you hit a certain age your value went down and you couldn’t add value to a team. Teams would punish you for that in terms of contract negotiations.

“You can have guys for whom age is just a number because people are taking care of themselves a lot more at an earlier stage.

“It’s great to see people like Dan who are challenging that perception because it is only a perception.

“And I think hopefully it will give power back to players for longer in their career. It’s inspiring for blokes to see a guy who’s kicking on and still doing it, not necessarily at international level but it’s not far off it, and he’s going to be playing with lads who are current internationals.”

Heaslip is frustrated he is not playing at the age of 36, with a back injury having finished his career two years ago.

He had expected to still be in action, so to see the likes of All Blacks great Carter competing is satisfying to the former number eight.

“I just love people who tear down what the perception is. I hate when people say, ‘That’s what should happen’ – it’s not what could happen. They’re two very different things and Dan has shown what can happen.”

The return of Super Rugby, albeit in a five-team domestic version of the competition in New Zealand for now, is set to prove a popular addition to the slowly growing sporting calendar.

The coronavirus crisis has affected sport globally, but slowly leagues are starting up again, and Heaslip is raring to see Super Rugby get under way.

Crowds will be allowed too, with large attendances expected for the opening round of games.

The Blues, possibly featuring Carter, start against the Hurricanes on Sunday.

“To be honest, everybody’s going to be watching it,” Heaslip said. “I’ve never watched a lot of Super Rugby in my past, but I tell you what, I’ll be watching what’s going on this weekend just to see something live.

“Sorry, I can’t watch repeat games. I know the results. I’m like that with movies or TV series – I know what’s going to happen so why would I bother?

“There’s going to be a lot of interest around it and it’s great to see.”

He predicted it would help leagues around the world look at how they can return to some semblance of normality.

“It’s exciting because maybe it gets everyone thinking here, ‘Okay, that’s something we can reach for’,” Heaslip said.

“We might not be getting the international game and we might not be able to play outside our country, but what can we do in Ireland, in England, in Scotland, in Wales, in France?

“Talking to [Ireland prop] Cian Healy recently, a lot of them are keen to get going.

“For a while it was good that they got the break – a lot of them thought it was good, especially the international players who’ve played a lot of rugby with not a whole lot of rest, but they’re over that now. Now they realise the importance for the game itself of getting people playing.”

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