Injured All Blacks fly half Dan Carter has warned New Zealand to take heed of history when they face old foes France in the Rugby World Cup Final on Sunday.
“They’re our arch nemesis at World Cup time and we all know the past that we’ve had with the French,” he said. “It’s a very exciting situation that we’re in, a final against France.”
As a member of New Zealand’s disappointing RWC 2007 campaign when the All Blacks were knocked out by France in the quarter-finals, Carter knows what kind of threat the unpredictable French can pose.
“They’re such a dangerous side,” he said. “Especially when their backs are against the wall and having a lot of doubters, that’s when they step up and they’ve shown that in 2007 and also in 1999 (when they beat New Zealand in the semi-finals).
“We have to expect the unexpected. The French are the best at doing something to surprise us so the guys realise that we’re in for a huge challenge, at World Cups teams come out and have heroic performances.”
For Carter, who was ruled out of the remainder of RWC 2011 with a groin injury at the end of the pool stages, France will be dangerous across the pitch at Eden Park.
“The loose forward trio are world class,” the 29-year-old said. “They’ve been fantastic right throughout this World Cup, led by their skipper Thierry (Dusautoir). They are extremely dangerous ball carriers and around the ruck time, and they’ve got a fantastic scrum.
“I’ve been really impressed with their back three, they’ve also been extremely dangerous and have scored some fantastic tries.”
While France’s selection of traditional scrum half Morgan Parra at fly half drew criticism early on in the tournament, Carter believes the French number 10’s transition is hard to fault.
“He’s slotted into the position extremely well,” Carter said. “He’s got a pretty cool head on him and you know he hasn’t played a lot in that position but he’s stepped up in the play-off games and he’s a very reliable, consistent player. He’s really added something to the French side.
“He’s not the biggest guy but he is a good defender, as he showed last week, so there’s not a lot of faults to his game.”
After being told his World Cup was over after tearing a muscle in his groin at training, Carter admitted he initially wanted nothing more to do with the tournament.
But he could not help but get caught up in the excitement of the event once those early emotions died down.
Number one fan
“I was pretty gutted the first few days. I guess anger did creep in a little bit because I was just so gutted and didn’t really want anything to do with the World Cup, and then it hit me after five or six days that I realised the World Cup is here in my home country and I’m going to make the most of it like everyone else,” Carter said.
“I wasn’t going to go to any games, I sort of dropped my lip a bit, but I decided to go to the games and enjoy the atmosphere. It’s been quite different for me and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Despite his continued involvement with squad planning and preparation, Carter says sitting in the stands when New Zealand play has been one of his biggest challenges.
“When I’m sitting there watching the game I get extremely nervous,” he said. “I’m not a very good spectator.
“That’s when it’s really tough, when I see the guys out on the field because I have a sense of no control. I’m so used to being out there and trying to make a difference on the field."
While he may not be able to play as he recovers from successful groin surgery, Carter is determined to do whatever he can to help the All Blacks.
“I just want the boys to win so badly like the rest of us,” he said. “Obviously I can’t play so I’m going to be their number one supporter.”