WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — World Cup-winning All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter will make a surprise return to Super Rugby in New Zealand at the age of 38.
Carter has signed as an injury replacement with the Blues, joining current All Blacks No. 10 Beauden Barrett at the Auckland-based franchise for the upcoming Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament.
A message from Blues head coach Leon MacDonald to players announcing Carter’s imminent signing was leaked Wednesday to New Zealand media. Carter appeared at a news conference Thursday, after his signing was confirmed.
He will join the Blues on a basic contract — worth about $1,200 per week — as an injury replacement for flyhalf Stephen Perofeta, who has a foot injury and will miss the start of the New Zealand tournament, which runs for 10 weeks from June 13.
Carter, who reportedly was playing for more than $1 million per season in Japan, is also unlikely to make the start of the season, saying he will need some time to prepare and reach match fitness.
“I haven’t played for several months so it will be a number of weeks before I will be ready to be considered to play and then only if form warrants it,” he said.
Carter played all of his Super Rugby for the Christchurch-based Crusaders, before leaving New Zealand five years ago to play in France and Japan, most-recently for the Kobe Steelers in Japan’s Top League. He became a free agent when the Japan league was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Carter said he never expected to play for the Blues and had rejected offers to do so from previous Blues coaches Graham Henry and John Kirwan. But he now lives in Auckland, so accepted the contract offer from his former All Blacks teammate MacDonald.
“It wasn’t really a team I thought I would be playing for but it’s an opportunity to come to training in the city my family is,” Carter said. “We’ve been starved of sport and rugby. As a player we feel the same.
He hadn’t thought about playing the domestic tournament until recently, he said, but “with it being around the corner, it’s an exciting time.”
Carter played 141 matches over 13 Super Rugby seasons for the and led the All Blacks to victory at the 2015 World Cup after being injured at the 2011 tournament in New Zealand. He retired from test rugby in 2015.
Barrett, who joined the Blues this season from the Wellington-based Hurricanes but has yet to play a game, is expected to start at flyhalf in the Blues’ opening match against the Wellington-based Hurricanes at Auckland on June 14. The Blues also have Otere Black, who played at flyhalf in all sevens rounds of the full Super Rugby tournament, before the competition was suspended in March.
The New Zealand Super Rugby tournament, which will be the first major professional rugby competition to begin since the coronavirus outbreak, starts with a match between the Highlanders and Chiefs. It involves New Zealand’s five Super Rugby teams playing home and away matches.