Kiwi legend Dan Carter was almost an Instonian
Win or lose this afternoon's World Cup final, rugby is ready to salute all-time great Dan Carter on the occasion of his last New Zealand appearance but one Ulster club are still wondering what might have been.
It has been revealed that Carter, arguably the finest fly-half the game has seen, was once on the verge of signing for Instonians only for the move to fall through at the final moment.
The south Belfast side - currently Kukri Qualifying One champions and aiming to defend their crown with a vibrant young side - were competing at AIL level back in 2001 with links to clubs in New Zealand providing a rich seam of young players.
One such talent was Carter who, as a 19-year-old, was set for a short stint in Northern Ireland to gain experience of rugby in this part of the world.
Indeed if not for an injury crisis in Canterbury's provincial system, then the man who would orchestrate a series win over the Lions just four years later would have been pitching up at Shaw's Bridge.
Club President Ken Keane explained: "It was rumoured for years around the club that, just as Carter's career was taking off, he had been due to come here a few years before.
"At the time we had a lot of Kiwis coming over here during their off-season and in turn we would send some of our young boys over for a taste of rugby in New Zealand.
"It was only when one of our players, Chris McMenamy, contacted him on Twitter that Dan confirmed it.
"Probably for the best he didn't come… with our pack he'd have never seen the ball!"