Dan Carter ready to return to world-class form
The man behind Dan Carter's fitness revival believes the master five-eighth is now well placed to be an influential figure at next year's World Cup in England.
All Blacks strength and conditioning coach Nic Gill oversaw Carter's rehabilitation and fitness programme during his six-month extended break from the game, and says all indications are the time out has achieved exactly what it was intended for.
Carter has looked in excellent form since returning for the Crusaders' finals campaign at second five-eighths - his willingness to take the ball to the line an indication he's feeling in top condition.
''Dan worked really hard,'' Dr Gill told the Star-Times during the inaugural Powerade Breakthrough Academy in Auckland that he oversaw.
''The objective of the sabbatical for him was time with family, time away from rugby and to get the body in a good place.
''He did everything [physio] Pete [Gallagher] and I asked of him. He's fitter and moving better than he's moved for a long time. He's done well and it's a credit to him he's carrying on doing all those little things that have helped him. If he keeps that up he's going to be an even better Dan Carter.''
Carter has struggled with injuries in recent years, starting just five tests in 2011 and six in 2013 as he has limped to the 100-test mark achieved at Twickenham last November. Notably, even that special occasion was ruined by an Achilles injury.
But Gill feels like Carter has given himself every chance to be the influential figure he thirsts to be at the 2015 World Cup, after being invalided out mid-campaign in 2011.
''The proof is in the pudding - he's playing well, he's strung some games together and he's been doing good.
''He's no different to any other athlete -- over a period of time the body needs a break. The body adapts, grows, recovers and freshens up with some time.
''Typically as athletes get older, or play more and more rugby, all they need is bit of time and the body will come back. For him time has been valuable to rebuild, remodel and get fresher.''
Gill also said time had been the key factor in enabling Kieran Read to eventually shrug off his ongoing head issues.
''All reports are he's back into a normal full training week and he's starting to play really well,'' added Gill.
''When you've had an injury like he had you can't do much so you de-train. So it's just been a matter of time. The body, with a bit of time out, will come back bigger and stronger and better.''
Gill continues to stay abreast of latest innovations in his role overseeing the All Blacks' fitness requirements, but says things like the Google glasses and Go-Pro cameras being used by England's sevens side have to be taken in context.
''You're always trying things, techniques and methods, and then you decide whether they're adding value or not. Its not rocket science - well, it can be, but you've got to make sure you get the foundation right before you go dabbling round the fringes.''
Gill was excited by a month-long lead in to next year's World Cup which was a first in his time and had to be used smartly.
''I wouldn't call it a reconditioning period, but there's definitely a little pre-season that will allow us to freshen and fill the tank up which is what we need.'' And the fitness guru has provided an emphatic endorsement of the readiness of leading All Blacks to make the sevens switch, if needed, in 2016.
''The All Black loosies, outside back and inside backs are in the same fitness parameters as the sevens guys,'' he said.
''All the test scores are reasonably similar.
''Our fittest outsides, fittest loosies, and fittest insides could definitely handle the sevens game, no problem.''
Gill was rapt with the inaugural 'Breakthrough' Academy which selected 11 rising young athletes from over 250 applicants to rub shoulders with Steven Adams and several All Blacks in what as an invaluable day for them.
''These athletes we selected are so inquisitive, so passionate and so driven they would have got so much out of it. They know exactly what they want to achieve, and there's a good indication this will have had an impact on their careers,'' Gill said.
- Sunday Star Times
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