A rejuvenated Dan Carter is back in the All Blacks as one of three additions to their squad named yesterday for the Rugby Championship, which is to start next month.
Carter, who took an extended break at the end of last season, was recalled along with Charles Piutau and Sam Cane, who missed last month’s tour by England because of injury. It is expected Carter will immediately resume his customary flyhalf duties ahead of Aaron Cruden, although he has been used at inside center since his return to the Canterbury Crusaders Super 15 side in recent weeks.
According to Carter’s Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, the break from the game has done the 32-year-old a world of good.
“The work that DC must have put into his body ... to come back and want to play at the highest level and not just play, but play really well and play to a certain standard, he’s just done that and he’s nailed it,” Blackadder said.
Piutau’s inclusion in the 31-man squad will strengthen the All Blacks’ already powerful back-three options, where he will contest the wing and fullback positions with Cory Jane, Israel Dagg, Ben Smith and Julian Savea. Like Carter, he also has experience in the midfield, where the All Blacks frontline starters are the veterans Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu along with rising star Malakai Fekitoa.
Cane gets the nod as backup for openside flanker and captain Richie McCaw after recovering from a fractured knee last month.
The new players return to the All Blacks — who are looking to defend the Rugby Championship, which also involves Australia, South Africa and Argentina — at the expense of Canterbury Crusaders trio Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty and Matt Todd.
Wellington Hurricanes loose forward Victor Vito and Crusaders lock Luke Romano were not considered because of injury. Should the All Blacks win the opening match of their campaign, against the Wallabies in Sydney on September 16, they will set a world record of 18 consecutive victories.
Although the All Blacks went through the Rugby Championship unbeaten last year, coach Steve Hansen said they faced an intense competition this year.
“South Africa and Australia are ranked second and third in the world and both had successful June Test series, while Argentina will again bring the physicality and passion which we know they are renowned for,” Hansen said.
The All Blacks squad is dominated by the best and worst of the New Zealand Super 15 franchises with eight players from the Crusaders, who are to play the NSW Waratahs in Saturday’s final, and eight from the Blues, who were last in the New Zealand conference. There are seven from the Wellington Hurricanes, five from the Waikato Chiefs and three from the Otago Highlanders.
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