Dan Carter would not be out of place in the All Blacks squad at the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year if selectors handed him a shock call-up to fill the gap left by the injured Damian McKenzie, former New Zealand coach Graham Henry has said.
Utility back McKenzie was ruled out of rugby for the rest of the year earlier this week after he ruptured an ACL knee tendon, scuppering Steve Hansen’s plans to take him to the World Cup where he could cover fullback and fly-half.
Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga were expected to be the specialist fly-halves in Hansen’s World Cup squad but McKenzie’s injury has revealed a lack of depth behind the trio.
“There’s been some talk about Dan Carter and I don’t think Dan Carter will let you down,” Henry told radio station Newstalk ZB. “He would be number three and I think he fits comfortably in that position.
“He’ll add a huge amount of experience and intellectual property about the Rugby World Cup and playing international rugby. He’s been there and done that.”
Carter, a three-time World Player of the Year, retired from internationals after his 112th Test when he helped the All Blacks to the 2015 Rugby World Cup title but continues to play club rugby in France and Japan.
Henry, however, acknowledged that Carter’s return was a long shot.
The 37-year-old recently underwent neck surgery which cost him a lucrative short-term return to France.
He is also not currently contracted to New Zealand Rugby, which excludes him from selection as the All Blacks have a firm policy of picking only locally-based players.
“It’s just obvious they have to qualify and they have to be playing and signed in this country to be available for the All Blacks,” Henry said.
“I’m sure he’ll be good for Beaudy and Richie if he was there. And who knows? But it sounds like there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes.”
Carter is not the only former player being mentioned as a potential candidate with local media reporting that Aaron Cruden could leave Montpellier and return home on a short-term contract before joining former Super Rugby coach Dave Rennie at Glasgow.
The 50-Test veteran left New Zealand after the 2017 British & Irish Lions Tour to play in France but has struggled to assert himself in Europe.