Is former All Blacks first five-eighths Dan Carter the greatest of all time?

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Evans said he played against Carter when both were in the early stages of their careers. He recalled his first experience, as a 21-year-old in 2004, when Carter still hadn't claimed the first five-eighths role.

 

"Even in those early games when he was playing 12 [second five-eighths], before he moved to ten, you could see he was one of those guys who has time – time to see pictures and time to make decisions. He just had this feel for the game – natural depth, perception, vision," he said.

 

The ability to perform under pressure was what set great players apart from good players, Evans said.

 

"There's external pressure and internal pressure, but when those championship moments come, it's all about the process and understanding what's happening in that moment."

 

Carter always had that ability.

 

"As a fly-half, when things go wrong or aren't quite going to plan, the team look to you and that can either be a burden or a challenge. And he had an all-round game.

 

"Skill-wise, he had a good passing game, a good kicking game and his goalkicking set him apart – he was a very good goalkicker. He was also of a similar ilk to Jonny Wilkinson in that he was a brave defender. You don't see too many tens, including myself, doing that, but when a ten is making good tackles, and stopping people in defence, it gives a team massive confidence," Evans said.

 

 

While his second Test effort against the 2005 British & Irish Lions was the obvious example of his best game, Evans felt a Highlanders v Crusaders game in 2007 stood out for him. On a windy day, Carter used his kicking game to keep the Highlanders under pressure, while also changing the momentum and manipulating the defences. He capped it off by producing a banana-kick conversion which, under the conditions, Evans described as 'ridiculous'.

 

As a competitor for the Test jersey, Evans said he had to lift his game to get to the level at which Carter was performing.

 

"It made me play better, and I probably exceeded where I thought I could get to.

 

"I definitely wanted the No10 jersey, but once the team was selected, it was my role to back him up and prepare as best as I could to help the team win, so I could come off the bench and the team wouldn't miss a beat," he said.

 

But whether Carter was the greatest of all time (GOAT), Evans said it was hard to make such a claim in team sports.

 

"In an individual sport like golf, you could say, Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods – half of [the] people would be on one side and half on the other. But, it's hard in a team sport because there are a lot of variables.

 

"I think if you set out criteria to satisfy – say points, titles, consistency of performance – and compared other tens in the world, there's definitely a case for him as the GOAT.

 

"But if you're looking at impact on rugby and the world, then you're comparing him to Jonah Lomu, who changed the game with professionalism, and that for me is a different argument.

 

"How many people would have come through if Lomu hadn't played the game? Everyone sat and watched him when he played.

 

"Don't get me wrong, Carter has had an unbelievable influence on rugby, but the world stopped when Lomu played."  

 

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