Brian O’Driscoll has backed Dan Carter as the man to claim the ten jersey for New Zealand next year if they are to retain the World Cup.
The all-time record points scorer in international rugby has had a tough 18 months with a string of injuries keeping him sidelined for much of this year.
In his absence Beauden Barrett and Aaron Cruden have stepped up, with both producing some impressive displays.
That has led to questions about whether Carter deserves to start when fully-fit, however O’Driscoll, who retired in 2014, believes that Carter should remain at the top of pecking order for New Zealand until the 2015 World Cup.
“Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett have both been decent, but Dan Carter takes it on to a different level and he kicks his goals better than both of them,” O’Driscoll said.
“If he’s got the scoreboard ticking over, then I just can’t see them being beaten.”
While he believes Carter will be key to New Zealand’s hopes of retaining their crown, O’Driscoll also feels that the extra skills learned as youngsters serve the All Blacks well compared with countries with a greater gym focus.
“They’ve got high, high skill levels,” O’Driscoll said of the All Blacks.
“The Polynesian element that they have playing for them, the [Julian] Saveas of the world, are pretty strong without going to the gym.
“I don’t think the gym-monkey thing applies to them as much as it does over here. There is way more of a focus in New Zealand from an early age on skills.
“They do everything with a ball. They do all their fitness work with a ball and that’s why they have better skill levels.
“That’s where New Zealand have the balance. They have that physicality, but they are able to mix their game up.
“They play a different brand of rugby to anyone else and they play a really clever game. Any time they lose their shape, they get it back quicker than anyone else.
“They’ve got this pod structure of second row and front row playing off 9 and 10, and if it breaks down, they seamlessly get back into a pattern.”