Dan Carter operates with ice in his veins. No matter how crucial the play, no matter how great the stakes, his knack is to execute with poise and precision.
It’s part of the reason he amassed more points in Test rugby (1598) than anyone else, and was three times anointed World Rugby Player of the Year.
But speaking to a group of school-kids in Auckland during a quick trip home, the former All Blacks champion No. 10 and now a global brand ambassador for TAG Heuer revealed the one circumstance in his stellar career that rattled him.
“One thing I love is playing in big stadiums in front of 60-, 70- or 80,000 people,” Carter told the children – beneficiaries of the iSport Foundation he started with fellow All Blacks Richie McCaw and Ali Williams – assembled for a masterclass on a field at St Paul’s College.
“But playing for the first time in Ireland the crowd went silent while I was lining up a kick at goal,” Carter said. “It’s intended as a mark of respect they show to kickers, but it threw me because I was used to dealing with all sorts of noise.”
Carter told the wide-eyed kids he kicked poorly that day as a result of his reaction to the eerie silence, and that he realised he needed to change his approach.
“After that, I knew I had to focus on my routine, on the process and not on externals,” Carter said. “Things went better from then on.”
Responding to a challenge from one of the kids, Carter then slotted a placekick from 50m in bog-like conditions.
Hours later, looking sharp in jacket and dress shirt, Carter was mingling with guests in a pumping Auckland nightspot, The White Room, launching the auction of a limited-edition Dan Carter TAG Heuer Aquaracer 300M Calibre 16 timepiece.
The watch sale, combined with Carter’s efforts in a passing competition back at St Paul’s that afternoon, saw TAG donate $NZ18,000 to the iSport Foundation, which helps aspiring junior athletes meet the costs of their sporting pursuits.
Though retired from Test rugby, Carter, 36, is playing on. Having recently finished a stint with Racing 92 in France’s Top14 domestic competition, he flies out for Japan later this week to begin a two-season association with the Kobelco Steelers.