On his return to Test rugby, All Blacks playmaker Dan Carter was pleased to emerge unscathed from a bruising Murrayfield battle.
On his return to Test rugby, All Blacks playmaker Dan Carter was pleased to emerge unscathed from a bruising Murrayfield battle, but admitted he had much to work on after a hot-and-cold performance against the Scots.
With a spree of injuries, most recently a broken leg, limiting his game-time, the leading points-scorer in the international game made his first start for the Kiwis in a year and played just under an hour of the 16-24 victory.
“It was very pleasing to get through sixty minutes,” he said. “After the last two or three weeks, my body’s feeling great – that’s encouraging.
“I thought as the game went on I got a lot more comfortable; the first twenty was pretty scratchy with a lot of mistakes from me personally. I wasn’t at my best, there were a couple of wee errors early in the game, but I was pretty pleased to get out there and get back playing, and as the game went on I grew in confidence.”
Even the very best players – and there have been few better than Carter – can succumb to bouts of ring-rustiness, with the pivot spilling possession, and miscuing kicks from hand and at goal.
Reports from the travelling New Zealand press suggested Carter, normally serene and unflappable, had appeared, quite understandably, a little edgy in the days before his comeback.
“I haven’t played a lot of rugby – probably six, seven games this year – but I think I’ll get a better reflection in a few months when I can start playing those six, seven games in a row,” he added.
“You have to be realistic, but at the same time, my expectation and standards for the level I want to play at are the same whether I’ve had a full season playing the best footy of my life or if I’m coming in like I have.
“Every time I put on a black jersey, I want to be out there and performing well and probably lacked that a little bit, especially those first twenty minutes I was making those uncharacteristic mistakes.”
The arduous nature of the All Blacks’ victory, a late Jeremy Thrush try finally subduing Scotland, sat starkly at odds with their last visit to Edinburgh two years ago.
That afternoon, Carter sparkled in the crisp autumn air, slicing through the home line at will with that wonderful, languid running style. Andy Robinson’s side shipped 51 points and the World Champions were scarcely troubled.
On Saturday, however, the Scots went blow-for-blow with the black juggernaut until the final ten minutes, trailing by just a point, and missing an opportunity to take the lead through Greig Laidlaw’s sliced penalty.
Carter echoed the sentiments of head coach, Steve Hansen, that the hosts are on the up, but praised his less experienced teammates for their mettle in closing the match out.
“They (Scotland) turned up with a lot of intensity; they disrupted us at the breakdown which really influenced the way we try to play – we couldn’t play that way,” he said.
“A couple of years ago, the Scots turned up and played with real high intensity then tapered off as the game went on, whereas right up to the 80th minute they were right in this match. They’re a far more improved side than they were a couple of years ago.
“I wasn’t getting the go-forward ball as much as I would have liked. They were putting a lot of pressure on at the breakdown, and even in the backline, the linespeed they were creating put our skills under pressure.
“We knew the Scots were going to put us under that amount of pressure. We probably didn’t react as well as we could have. But that was probably one of the most satisfying things – out on the field, the guys were really calm. They were always confident we’d get home.
“We had to hold on to the ball and cut down on our mistakes, and after they missed the shot at goal right at the end, the way guys bounced back and played for the next five or ten minutes was a credit to the self-belief in the side.”