NEW ZEALAND: Desperate Dan
4:29pm Tuesday 4th September 2007 in Sport
Should New Zealand conquer the world this year, Daniel Carter is the man who will have made it happen.
Quite simply, the Canterbury fly-half is the man who makes the All Blacks tick.
As a goalkicker, playmaker, try-scorer and first line of defence, Carter, below, is as close to the complete player as New Zealand has.
He encapsulates all that has been best about his predecessors in the All Black No.10 shirt, the first five-eighth position that has become the focal point of any New Zealand outfit.
In four short years, Carter has become the pre-eminent fly-half in first New Zealand, then world, rugby.
Having ousted Auckland rival Carlos Spencer, Carter then pushed aside his mentor to take centre stage.
Off the field, Carter is the Tiger Woods or David Beckham of rugby in New Zealand - the undisputed brand leader.
However, his focus remains on the field.
I still see myself as a rugby player,' he said. My main focus is to always keep it that way, to make sure people see me for a rugby player first and a brand second.' And while he has that George Best appeal - Kiwi men want to be him, and Kiwi women want to be seen with him - he has the clean-cut reputation of a Gary Lineker.
But World Cup year has started in an atypically sluggish manner for the man many of his compatriots consider as the brightest star in world rugby's firmament.
As a leading All Black, Carter was placed on reconditioning duty by the New Zealand Rugby Union. That meant he sat out pre-season with the Crusaders and the first seven rounds of the Super 14 campaign.
He failed to hit the ground running, and was nagged by minor injuries as the Crusaders failed to defend their title.
He missed game time against France in a two-Test series, and was named on the bench in the comprehensive Test win over Canada - although he still came on for a second-half hat-trick.
But the Kiwi standard-bearer has shown some glimpses of his best this season. And he will need to if New Zealand is to reclaim the Webb Ellis Trophy.
- All Black winger Jonah Lomu holds the record for most tries scored in the Rugby World Cup with 15.
- Fly-half Simon Culhane scored a tournament record 20 conversions against Japan on debut in 1995.. and was dropped for the next match.
- The All Blacks are currently the top-ranked side in the world.