Carter hails 'ultimate professional' Wilkinson

Getty Images     27 Mar 2014     Getty Images

Speculation has arisen in recent weeks that England's World Cup-winning first five-eighths could hang up his boots at the end of the current campaign.

And New Zealand star Carter, who played against Wilkinson numerous times in clashes with England and the British and Irish Lions, has paid a glowing tribute to his fellow number 10.

Carter also insisted that if he chose to do so, Wilkinson could extend his career beyond the end of this season.

"He's had an amazing career," Carter told reporters at the Laureus Sports Awards.

"I've got huge respect for Jonny and everything that he's achieved. He's the ultimate professional.

"To have the career that he's had, he should be really proud of everything he's achieved.

"We're pretty lucky in rugby to have a player of his calibre and his quality, not only on the pitch but also off it as well.

"He's fine, I'm sure he can probably play another couple of years the way he's playing for Toulon. But huge respect to him as a player that I've always looked up to."

Carter played an integral role in the All Blacks side that went unbeaten throughout 2013 and the 32-year-old believes that achievement is just a stepping stone on the way to a greater aim, defending the World Cup title they won in 2011.

"It was a very demanding year, 2013, so you always have to work out ways of staying ahead of the game," he said.

"Obviously the World Cup is a big focus for us now, it's probably only a year and a half away. No team has ever won back-to-back World Cups so it's a goal for us and something that we'd love to achieve.

"But there's a lot of hard work to go and do before we get to that stage."