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Record-Breaker Carter Seeks Perfect Game Against Jonny

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Dan Carter
Dan Carter

By Mark Geenty of NZPA

London, Nov 19 NZPA - As he sits one point off Andrew Mehrtens' All Blacks test rugby pointscoring record, Dan Carter still seeks the perfect game.

Westpac Stadium against the Lions in 2005 still stands as a benchmark, ironically the last time he and his English sparring partner on Sunday (NZT), Jonny Wilkinson, went head to head.

In five All Blacks tests against England since that Lions series, Charlie Hodgson and Toby Flood have shared the pivot's duties against Carter as Wilkinson battled an array of injuries.

So, against a player he rates one of his favourite opponents, Carter feels he can switch it up another level at Twickenham.

There's also the annoyance of coming off a one-match ban for a high tackle which blemished his perfect record of never having fronted a rugby judiciary.

"If anything, that makes me more motivated this weekend. I'm fresh and ready to go," he said as an array of British tape recorders hung on his every word at the All Blacks' Kensington hotel.

After the 19-12 win over Wales in Cardiff, Carter sits on 966 points from 64 tests. From the kicking tee in Tokyo and Cardiff he's 13 from 13 on tour so far.

The 27-year-old was named man of the match at Millennium Stadium to a chorus of boos after his tackle on halfback Martin Roberts.

It was hardly a hangable offence, and his tactical kicking all over the park had earlier given the All Blacks a stranglehold on the test that they couldn't drive home for a decisive win.

"I was happy with the way I played in Wales but I still think I can play better this weekend," he said.

"I want to continue with my running game. I showed little signs of that there, but a lot goes into that, with the forwards getting front foot ball then I really want to keep steering them around the paddock; keep working on my vision and attacking where the space is."

With some of his teammates starting to feel the effects of a marathon season, Carter maintains the achilles tendon layoff which cut short his French sojourn was a blessing.

Like Wilkinson, who made his long-awaited comeback against Australia after a move to France, he felt refreshed and with still more to offer for the England and France tests.

But, Carter said the crucial forward battle would determine any bragging rights this weekend.

"He (Wilkinson) poses a real threat and you just love coming up against guys you admire and respect," Carter said.

"That's a great strength of his game, his physicality. He's always going to give 100 percent and put his body on the line.

"We've got some big boys and physicality is going to be a big aspect this weekend. They've picked some big ball carriers and we really have to match that and be physical. "

The mutual admiration society between the pair was strong this week. Wilkinson, a picture of calm at England's five-star Penny Hill retreat at Bagshot, rated Carter the most skilful rugby player of any position, ever.

In a nutshell, Wilkinson said Carter was a near to rugby perfection as he'd seen.

"He's smart, he's switched on and he's obviously a deep enough character to take on things like big injuries, and to challenge himself by moving to France.

"He's got the personality and the character and the skills and without a doubt he's got the faith of his team."

Wilkinson claimed he was oblivious to the intense media criticism of England and their coach Martin Johnson after last weekend's 16-9 win over Argentina.

He's been there before and tasted victory over the All Blacks in 2003, and said they were never seen as invincible.

"Going into the game, confidence wise and belief wise, you always think that if we apply ourselves and hit our marks, then we can win this game."


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