With his calf injury repaired but the mental turmoil associated with missing New Zealand's march to World Cup glory still lingering, Daniel Carter has no definitive plans to put his feet up or venture abroad with another sabbatical.
Carter is the backline's equivalent of Richie McCaw in terms of importance, and although the All Blacks captain has chosen to take a break, the world's premier first five-eighth has committed to playing on for the foreseeable future.
In the aftermath of McCaw's decision, Carter's plans are of interest and he said he won't be factoring in another OE or R&R leading into the All Blacks' defence of the Webb Ellis Cup in England.
“This year, for me, is about concentrating in the here and now and enjoying my rugby as much as possible. I haven't looked past this year, I haven't thought about it at all,” said Carter before head coach Steve Hansen suggested a second sabbatical was off the table considering the down time the 30-year-old has endured this year.
“He's already taken one this year,” Hansen pointed out. “He's had a few injuries so I think he's quite keen to play.”
Carter was keen to tick off the 90-cap milestone at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata against an opponent he has faced only once before - a taut 25-19 victory in Buenos Aires on the All Blacks' previous tour to Argentina in 2006.
It has been frustrating to be a spectator during the dour, though successful arm wrestles against Los Pumas and South Africa earlier this month. And although he has been an All Black since 2003 the novelty had not worn off, especially as the Argentinians barely feature on his resume.
Carter was invigorated by the prospect of matching up against rival playmaker Juan Martin Hernandez for the first time - he played fullback six years ago - and relished the challenge of helping the All Blacks negotiate a defensive line that held firm for much of the game at Westpac Stadium.
Demoralising their hosts - and muting passionate home support - at the earliest possible opportunity has been identified as a priority for an All Black side braced for one of the code's most boisterous playing environments.
“We need to score early and put them under pressure otherwise they're going to stay in the game and it'll be a real battle,” Hansen said, impressed by the fact Argentina had not conceded a try in the first half of their last three tests.
That durability is indicative of Argentina's reputation as a developing force since they made the semifinals of the 2007 World Cup.
The All Blacks routinely racked up cricket scores against the South Americans but traditionally they are resolute in their own backyard.
Legendary pivot Hugo Porto engineered a 21-21 stalemate in 1985, while a last-ditch Scott Robertson try was required to preserve the All Blacks' unbeaten record as they stopped over en route from Europe in late 2001.
Both sides negotiated their final training runs without incident, although Ma'a Nonu sat out the latter stages with a sore toe.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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