Rugby World Cup Final: All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter is greatest of all time insists Stephen Larkham
Stephen Larkham insists Australia will face the greatest ever fly-half when they clash with New Zealand in Saturday's World Cup final at Twickenham.
Dan Carter will make his 112th Test appearance as the All Blacks' playmaker in chief when the world champions seek to become the first team to defend their crown by lifting the Webb Ellis Cup for an unprecedented third time.
The 33-year-old may no longer be the magician who left the British and Irish Lions spellbound in 2005 but Wallabies backs coach Larkham - himself a distinguished former fly-half - believes his position among the all-time greats is already guaranteed.
"Dan Carter will be number one in the pantheon. Clearly number one," said Larkham, a Test centurion who steered the Wallabies to World Cup glory in 1999.
"Probably over here in England, Jonny Wilkinson will be number one, but in the Southern Hemisphere Dan is ranked number one.
"He's shown really good composure during this tournament. His skills haven't dropped off at all, he picks and chooses when he wants to run and he does that really well. He's combining with his team-mates very well."
Carter will conduct the final performance of New Zealand's world title defence against a team they routed 41-13 in Auckland during the summer, but only having succumbed 27-19 in Sydney a fortnight earlier.
The Wallabies have undergone a remarkable transformation since head coach Michael Cheika inherited a dysfunctional squad beset by disciplinary problems and reeling from a split between players and management.
Having emerged from the toughest pool in World Cup history by toppling England and Wales, they stand one win away from seeing Australia recognised as the competition's most successful nation.
"The most important thing we've given the team over the last 12 months is a bit more structure," Larkham said. "We've had a difficult run to this final so we know what we need to do in terms of preparing for a big game.
"We've scored some good tries but defence is going to be the key. We are going in there with a plan on how we want to play, and then it comes down to how it is refereed and the conditions."