Racing fly-half Dan Carter says he is ready and focused on helping Racing qualify for the Top 14 play-offs despite his recent distractions.
Carter was stripped of his Land Rover sponsorship deal after being caught drink driving in Paris in February. Then he missed six weeks of the season with a groin injury. And to top it all off, he had a positive drugs test to deal with after last season’s 29-21 victory in the Top 14 final against Toulon, a charge he was cleared of this month.
But Carter remains optimistic as his side are still very much in with a shout of making the playoffs despite all the setbacks they have endured, including the aborted merger with Stade Francais.
“When the season started we were on a bit of a high after last year’s success. So if you’d said before about all the things that were going to happen I wouldn’t have believed you,” the 35-year-old fly-half told AFP on Wednesday.
“There were a lot of distractions, a lot of set backs. But one thing through all of this — we’ve stayed tight as a team, with a wonderful spirit. It goes to show the strength of characters we’ve got on the team.”
The 2011 and 2015 World Cup champion was instrumental in helping Racing lift the Top 14, winning the man of the match award in the final. And the All Blacks great is well aware of just how important this weekend’s fixture is.
“It’s the biggest game of our season.
“Our season depends on the result of this match. We are going to have to do something pretty special to come out with a win and keep our play-off hopes alive.”
He added he is raring to go fitness-wise.
“It’s been three matches since I came back from injury, I was out for about six weeks in total.
“It takes a few games to get your rhythm and confidence back — I’ve felt like I’ve got better each of these three games.
“There have been a few distractions this year but that’s all behind me. I’m just looking forward now, the focus is on the play-offs, I want to try and contribute to a huge game on Sunday.”
Despite his turbulent season, Carter denied he was experiencing any homesickness.
“I’ve got a contract until the end of next season, I’ve got no thoughts about running back to New Zealand,” he added.
“I’m more than happy here, I’m really enjoying living in France. The people have been extremely kind to me and my family. I no longer feel like a tourist, no longer feel as shy and like a new schoolboy as when I first arrived.
“I love travelling, visiting châteaux and historical landmarks that are older than my country New Zealand. I want to make the most of the experience living in this part of the world.”