Carter no chance for Crusaders-England match
Dan Carter won't rush back to represent the Crusaders in their historic match against England at AMI Stadium on June 17.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen yesterday confirmed Carter, who hasn't played since hobbling off Twickenham with an Achilles tendon injury on November 16, wants to use his Southbridge club to relaunch his post-sabbatical career.
Hansen, no doubt heartened by the news that Chiefs playmaker Aaron Cruden should make his return from a broken thumb against the Hurricanes this weekend, said he discussed Carter's comeback plans when the All Blacks coaches held player interviews in Christchurch recently.
"We had a meeting when we were at the Crusaders, with Dan, and his programme will include him coming back when he's ready to play through his club at Southbridge and then graduating into the Crusaders after the June series," Hansen said.
"He's not going to play the England-Crusaders game - he won't be ready for that."
Auckland-based Carter should be available for the Crusaders' final round-robin games against the Hurricanes, Blues and Highlanders and the playoffs - if they qualify.
The first five-eighth, who has begun training in earnest after several offshore holidays, is expected to join the All Blacks wider training camp in Christchurch for a medical check up.
Given he will play no part in the England series, the 100-test veteran's input to that campaign is likely to minimal.
Cruden, who returned from a holiday in Bali on Saturday night, joined the All Blacks camp yesterday. A recent X-ray on the thumb he broke in the 43-43 draw against the Cheetahs on April 6 revealed the bone had knitted and he expects to start contact training in the next couple of days.
"It [the thumb] feels good, it feels nice and strong," Cruden said. "I got the cast off last week and am just moving it around again. Hopefully, next weekend I will be back out on the paddock."
Hansen will whittle back the 35-man training squad to 31 on June 1. Cruden, Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade, all first-fives, have all been named in the initial squad in the absence of Carter.
The sight of impressive Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa wearing a moonboot in the team's Christchurch hotel yesterday was not a concern, added Hansen.
"He's just got a foot strain so medical staff don't want him to put too much weight on it. I'm sure he will be fine by Saturday. I know it looks serious and dramatic but medical staff are saying he's going to be OK."
The Highlanders meet the Crusaders in Dunedin on Saturday night. Kieran Read has joined the All Blacks for their camp and Hansen was optimistic the Crusaders No 8, who has not played since April 19 because of concussion, would be fit for the England series.
While Read has been nursing a head cold he indicated he was on the improve.
"He told me he's feeling a lot better and I'm sure he'll be reintroduced over the next couple of weeks," Hansen said.
"History tells you that if you do things right and bring them back when they're ready and not before, then they're fine. Yes, he's had two concussions, but they are separate concussions. The second one is just taking him a wee while to shake.
"We'll just take him long quietly and see what happens."
If Read is unfit to play England, Hansen noted Jerome Kaino, who has played test rugby at No 8, was an option to replace him.