TOKYO (AFP) – All Blacks legend Dan Carter yesterday tipped Japan to reach the knockout stages of their home World Cup next year – and warned favourites New Zealand will not have it all their own way.
The 36-year-old fly-half, who confirmed his stint in Japan would bring down the curtain on his glittering career, said the Brave Blossoms were capable of reaching the quarter-finals.
“There is going to have to be a couple of upsets for Japan to make that but they are capable of it,” said the three-time world player of the year, who is on a two-year deal with the Kobe Steelers.
“They’ve got the team, the players, the coaching staff to pull off these upsets and I’d love to see them in the play-off stages of the next World Cup.”
Japan will likely have to beat one of Pool A’s Six Nations heavyweights, Scotland or Ireland, to reach the quarter-finals but Carter said last week’s performance against New Zealand should give them hope.
A second-string All Blacks side hammered Japan 69-31 but the Brave Blossoms played their part in a pulsating game in Yokohama near Tokyo.
“Not many teams are able to score five tries against the All Blacks. So the Japanese team should be very proud of that,” said Carter.
While the All Blacks are overwhelming favourites to lift their third successive Webb Ellis Cup, Carter said the form book does not count for everything.
“Just because you’re the number one side in the world doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win the Rugby World Cup,” he said, adding that a lot of teams were peaking ahead of next year’s tournament.
“So, I’d like to think the All Blacks will win, but you’re never 100 per cent sure of that.”
However, Carter tipped his former side to have too much firepower for England at Twickenham tomorrow.
While Eddie Jones’s men looked strong last week in their narrow 12-11 win over South Africa – the only team to turn over the All Blacks this year – Carter said the “speed in which they play the game might be a little too much for England to stay with them for 80 minutes”.
Carter was world player of the year in 2005, 2012 and 2015, amassing a world-record 1,598 points in 112 Tests, and is the biggest draw in Japan’s domestic league after completing a three-year spell with French side Racing 92.
Entering his mid-30s, Carter said his Japanese odyssey will likely be the last chapter in his storied career.
“I’ve been playing for 15-16 years now. I haven’t fully decided yet when I’ve going to finish but I think this would be a great place to finish my career,” he said.
Asked whether he might be tempted into coaching, he quipped that coaches “work harder than the players, so that would be quite intense”.
And while he said he “could not imagine” a better place to live and play than Japan, he admitted the local language was causing him some difficulties.