Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Carter relishing Pumas challenge

Dan Carter missed the first two rounds of the Rugby Championship with a calf strain

Dan Carter returns for New Zealand in their Rugby Championship clash with Argentina needing to reconfirm his position as the All Blacks' best fly-half.

Carter will be making only his second Test appearance of the year after missing the first two rounds of the competition with a calf strain, giving Aaron Cruden and Tom Taylor the chance to impress.

The 31-year-old was disappointing against France in June and his injury-enforced absence has increased his appetite to perform against the Pumas in Hamilton.

"You always want to play well every time you put the black jersey on and I know I could have played better last time than I did," he said.

"The motivation grows when you have to sit out a couple of Tests like I have."

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen is eager to see how Carter - who begins a six-month sabbatical in November - responds to the challenge for the number 10 jersey from Cruden, Taylor and Beauden Barrett.

"Dan just needs a decent run of games. He's a world-class player - you saw that in the Super competition. When he got some games going he started putting some performances in," Hansen said

"It's interesting isn't it? We've gone from probably having the best first five-eighths in the history of the game, but certainly the best first five-eighths in world rugby, to probably the second best first five-eighths as well.

"Aaron Cruden has really developed and taken the bull by the horns. Beauden Barrett is developing nicely and Tom Taylor's performance the other day was nothing short of miraculous.

"That creates a little bit of depth but it also creates some pressure and it be will interesting how Dan takes that.

"You don't want him looking over his shoulder, you want him looking forward and trying to improve his own game rather than being pressured. And I'm sure he will, he's had a few challenges in his time."

Francis Saili makes his All Blacks debut at inside centre, giving Ma'a Nonu a week to recover from his ankle injury with the critical clash against South Africa looming in Auckland a week later.

Argentina made a poor start to the Rugby Championship and have only a losing bonus point to show for their two games, although Australia still lie below them in fourth.

Flanker and captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe returns following the 22-17 defeat by South Africa in Mendoza, as does lock Manuel Carizza and full-back Juan Martin Hernandez.

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