Dan Carter is exploring the possibility of playing in Japan
after the All Blacks' end-of-season tour.
The pulling power of Japanese rugby will be felt again,
with Daniel Carter likely to become the next star All Black to
sign up for a short stint in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Carter is understood to have rejected the advances of French
giants Toulon and Racing Metro, who were desperate to sign
him for six months next year, and he has made it clear that
if he takes a sabbatical, it will be in Japan.
The Herald on Sunday understands that Carter is exploring the
possibility of playing in Japan after the All Blacks'
end-of-season tour. New Zealand will play only three tests in
November, leaving Carter a window to enjoy a season in the
Japanese Top League which runs from November to February.
The star first-five hasn't made any decisions yet on whether
he will invoke his sabbatical clause but it is believed that
if he does, his preference will be to play off-shore rather
than follow Richie McCaw's lead and take time away from all
rugby. Carter is a touch and confidence player and tends to
be at his best when he plays for sustained periods.
Because his first sabbatical to Perpignan in 2009 was cut
short by injury, numerous French clubs had hoped Carter would
feel he had unfinished business there and that he could be
lured back for a second stint in the first six months of next
Only Toulon and Racing Metro were actually able to raise the
sort of money required to tempt the world's best player but
the latter's owner, Jacky Lorenzetti, has confirmed that he's
"[The Dan Carter deal] is a disappointment," Lorenzetti told
French media. "I met him a number of times. He was keen and
the financial conditions were in place. He would have
complemented our current squad very well.
"It didn't happen because he got injured at the World Cup. He
is frustrated to not have played [in the knockout stages] and
is desperate to feature in the 2015 edition. To do that, he
has to play in New Zealand.
"I think Carter will perhaps do a short stint in Japan.
They're very generous patrons of world rugby. He won't come
Carter has achieved an incredible amount since he first
played for the Crusaders in 2003. He
has won three Super Rugby titles, collected almost 100 test
caps, never lost the Bledisloe and played at three World
Cups. While he has a World Cup winner's medal, he collected
it on crutches having missed the play-offs due to serious
injury. His 2007 tournament was a bigger personal disaster,
as he limped off in the quarter-final defeat to France, and
in 2003, he was not a first choice selection.
His overriding goal is to finish his career as the undisputed
star of the 2015 tournament. The idea of playing a central
role in helping the All Blacks defend their title has him
Almost every other box has been ticked in his glittering
career except this one - it is anomalous that a player of
Carter's class has not been the dominant force at a World
Cup. Jonny Wilkinson was the hero of 2003, Bryan Habana in
2007 and a combination of McCaw, Jerome Kaino and Stephen
Donald in 2011.
If Carter commits to a playing sabbatical, it will be with a
view to helping him towards his bigger goal. While he has
talked about France being a spiritual home, the prospect of
six months of bruising rugby didn't appeal. He is 31 next
month and there were serious questions about whether his body
would cope with the attritional Top 14 in France.
A short stint in Japan, though, where the game is fast and
not as physical, could sharpen his running game. The Japanese
clubs inflict a heavy aerobic workload on their players and
Carter may benefit from such emphasis combined with the
chance to mentally escape New Zealand.
He could go straight back into the Crusaders' 2014 campaign
or take a break before resuming in time to secure his All
Black place for the June tests.
Several Japanese clubs are likely to be able to offer in
excess of $1 million to sign Carter.
- Gregor Paul