x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Dan Carter stands alone as the first-choice No 10

There seem to be no challenger to Dan Carter's position in the New Zealand All Bkacks team.

Last weekend in the Six Nations, every coach had a tough decision to make. Would they choose the attacking, youthful fly-half in preference to the older, wiser option?

Only Declan Kidney, the Ireland coach, and Nick Mallett, the Italy coach, went with experience by picking Ronan O'Gara over Jonathan Sexton, and Luciano Orquera over Kristofer Burton.

In contrast, Wales went with James Hook over Stephen Jones, England stuck with Toby Flood instead of Jonny Wilkinson, Scotland relied on the 23-year-old Ruaridh Jackson rather than Dan Parks, and Francois Trinh-Duc kept the No 10 jersey for France.

It is clear therefore that there is real competition for the fly-half berth in all of the northern hemisphere teams.

And yet, in the Super 15, things are very different for New Zealand. On the face of it, things look relatively healthy for the All Blacks. New Zealand teams have scored the most points combined in comparison to the Australian and South African franchises.

And yet, Dan Carter, the All Black and Crusaders fly-half, is the only pivot from a New Zealand team who is in the top eight points scorers in the competition. The Blues pair of Luke McAllister and Stephen Brett have shared the kicking duties this season, and added together their points tally just eclipses that of Carter.

But even together, are they really half as good a player as Carter, who remains far too important to Graham Henry's side? Where have all the challengers to his position gone?