Slade favoured to retain Crusaders' No 10 spot

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 24/06/2014

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Dan Carter's self-imposed booze ban ensures he looks more svelte than squat.

Unlike Piri Weepu, who was bombarded with criticism for presenting to the Blues in an overweight state following the 2011 World Cup, a trim Carter yesterday greeted the Crusaders' returning All Blacks as they switched their attention to Saturday night's match against the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Now back from his sabbatical, Carter, who weighs several kilos less than his preferred playing weight of 96kg, is available to start for the Crusaders but coach Todd Blackadder is expected to ease him back into Super Rugby action by naming him on the bench.

Colin Slade, the preferred first five-eighth since the Crusaders' fourth match against the Rebels, is tipped to start in the playmaker's role and Carter, who has only played 120 minutes for his Southbridge club in recent weeks, can provide cover from the reserves.

For the last couple of months Carter has resisted drinking alcohol, a policy he refused to break as he joined his club team-mates for their post-match celebrations last weekend.

"It's a bit hard when you are sitting at the clubrooms and all the boys are into it - I don't really feel like drinking at the moment, so I'm not," Carter maintained.

"It was a bit tough at first to be honest. I quite enjoy a beer. But it's a decision I made . . . It's just one of those things. When I feel like having a drink again I will. There's no set time or anything like that."

The 100-test All Black was not avoiding alcohol because he had let his girth expand during an extended holiday which included a decent chunk of overseas travel and meeting various celebrities from the entertainment and sports circuits.

"No, I enjoyed myself during my break. When I look back I want to know I gave my best chance and if it means not drinking as much . . . it's just one of those things."

The 32-year-old's self-sacrifice could be construed as a reaction to being concerned about losing his All Blacks' position after Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett operated at first-five during the 3-0 whitewash of England.

The All Blacks' next match is their Rugby Championship opener against Australia in Sydney on August 16.

"It's out of my control, really. All I can worry about is what I do," Carter said in reference to giving up his No. 10 jersey for the England series.

"I have been working extremely hard over the past few months to get back up to speed and now there's going to be the challenge of getting back to playing which is what I'm excited about."

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When, or if, Carter will win back his Crusaders' first-five position is uncertain. If Slade retains the fine form displayed prior to the June test series coach Todd Blackadder will be loath to drop him.

Carter, meanwhile, said it may take a month before he knows if his sabbatical has benefited his body.

"It feels good now but I'm not playing a lot of rugby. It's the challenge of once you get back into that routine and playing week in and week out. It's playing at a higher level when you soon realise exactly how the body is."

- Fairfax Media

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