Outspoken journalist Stephen Jones is at it again. This time he has taken aim at former All Blacks first-five Dan Carter as he prepares to sign off from his three years in France.
In a column for the Sunday Times, under the headline ‘Why Racing 92’s Dan Carter is not the man’, Jones argues that Carter “has not been a runaway success” at the club.
Theory that Dan Carter seen as truly great player because he played in great side gains yet more weight in non-performance against Glasgow
— Stephen Jones (@stephenjones9) December 16, 2016
The double World Cup winner is set to face Leinster in this weekend’s European Champions Cup final in Bilbao, Spain – after which he will join Kobe Steelers in Japan ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“Whisper it, but Carter has not been a runaway success for Racing. Decent, yes, willing, yes, but not dazzling at all,” wrote Jones.
“And whisper it even more quietly, but he may not even start in Bilbao. Pat Lambie, a Springbok, has been favoured lately at fly-half and insiders believe that he will also start in Bilbao, leaving Carter, in one of those needle-sharp witticisms for which Kiwis are not famous, ‘riding the pine’.”
Not for the first time, the writer implied Carter was only riding on his reputation as an icon of the game.
“Icons. They are just, well, iconic. It is a status conferred in rugby which is above world-class and which makes you untouchable. Shovel manure and it comes up smelling of roses.
“One account of a previous European match this season recorded that Carter, arriving as a replacement, ‘immediately showed his true class with a glorious long pass’. The truth is that the pass in question could have been thrown by about 95% of professional fly-halves currently playing the game.
“But an icon is an icon, and is always an icon, and that status does not depend on form or fitness or reality.”
Arguably the most scathing line from the Sunday Times column, however, was the assertion that Carter spent most of his time living it up in Paris.
“It is also too easy to say that his marvellous approachability and example to youngsters has shone through, but he was convicted for drink-driving in Paris, an incident which caused Jacky Lorenzetti, Racing’s owner, to finally lose patience with the player and bemoan the fact that Carter had added to his repertoire the one talent that he had not yet demonstrated throughout his outstanding career – the ability to enjoy a party,” wrote Jones.
“Carter was a great player for the All Blacks but it is important to note the platform on which he played. It would be too much to say that your old grandmother could have played fly-half for the All Blacks, so dominant were they throughout two World Cups, and Carter was sublime at each end — in 2005 against the Lions and a decade later in the World Cup final — if inconsistent in between.
“It is a good few years since Carter has truly been in his pomp – in the 2005 series against the Lions, he appeared to be walking on water and it probably took him until 2015 to regain those heights.”