Dan Carter 'itching to get back' on rugby field
Dan Carter doesn't expect to play the full 80 minutes in his much-anticipated return for his Southbridge club this weekend.
Carter, who has been on sabbatical since earning his 100th test cap against England in London last November, will start at first five-eighth in the Luisetti Seeds division one play-off match when Southbridge host Glenmark on Saturday afternoon.
As he nears the end of his holiday the All Blacks and Crusaders playmaker said he was motivated to get back into action, but was uncertain he would still be on the field at the final whistle of the club game.
"Probably not, to be honest. I have been out for over six months and will just ease my way back into it on what will more than likely be a heavy, wet track.
"I am probably only looking at 40 minutes or so, but it will just be good to get some game time.''
Carter, who moved back to Christchurch from Auckland last weekend to begin training with the Crusaders, attended a function at the Southbridge club on Monday night where he was presented with his playing kit and got the chance to mingle with the local club stalwarts.
He last played for the club when making his comeback from an Achilles tendon injury in 2009.
"It was good, actually. They just held a sponsors night ... Obviously with club rugby, sponsorship is pretty important to keep the club running and while I was down here I thought it was appropriate to make a bit of a night of it.''
He expected to join his Southbridge teammates for training on Thursday night.
A big crowd was expected at the small country club, but the 32-year-old would be wary of preserving his body as he made his return from such a long lay-off.
Looking trim and fit as he visited Carew Peel Forest School to present prizes as part of a promotion run by Healtheries, Carter was encouraged by his progress in the gym and training fields since cranking-up his training in recent months.
"Probably for the last six weeks I have been itching to get back. The more intense the training gets, the more you just want to get out there and play. It has picked up over the last six weeks and I am now at a stage where I am ready to play.
"There is a lot of motivation there.''
He has no concerns about his body taking the hits against Glenmark, noting he has already been involved in several contact sessions to prepare his body for what lies ahead.
"I have been training with the Crusaders this week, the intensity has been pretty high there. And also up in Auckland with friends I have used the Auckland academy to do a bit of physical work.''
The ankle surgery he had soon after the All Blacks returned from last year's northern tour has proved successful and he has also fully recovered from the Achilles tendon injury that forced him from the field in his most recent test in London.
"The ankle feels fine. I have been training now for the last couple of months at a pretty high intensity and am just keen to get back playing.''
When Richie McCaw took his sabbatical last year he said one of the things he treasured most was being able to stay out of the spotlight and travel to countries where rugby stars are not such a big deal.
Carter said he more enjoyed being able to spend time with his wife Honor and son Marco.
"I didn't do as much travelling as Richie. I shot away for three-and-a-half weeks there which I really enjoyed and it was great to do a bit of travelling but it was just great to be able to work on my body, do a lot of rehab and give it the time it needed to get on top of the injuries I have had.
"And also to spend quality time with family which has been great.''
Which three first-fives would you have taken on the All Blacks' northern tour?