All Black legend Dan Carter on Wednesday expressed his sadness at leaving Racing 92 after three seasons as he prepares to head to Japan for what he said was “probably” the final chapter of his glittering career.
Carter amassed a world record 1,598 points in 112 Tests for New Zealand and was a member of the All Blacks team that won both the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.
Three times a Super Rugby champion with the Crusaders, Carter also won France’s Top 14 twice, in 2016 with Racing and 2009 with Perpignan, although he only played four times in an injury-plagued season for the Catalan club.
“Last day, yeah, it’s a little bit sad. My French journey has come to an end,” Carter said at a final press conference in Racing colours.
“I was very excited about coming to France after the 2015 World Cup and it’s been an amazing experience.
“Over the last two to three days after the result on the weekend (when Racing lost to Castres in the Top 14 semi-finals), I’ve had a chance to reflect and only good memories come to mind.”
Carter added: “I didn’t really know what to expect when I arrived here, but to play three seasons, two-and-a-half years, to bring my family to France, it’s come to an end and there are some great memories.”
The 36-year-old said he was now leaving for three weeks of holidays in Europe, “away from rugby”, with his family before moving to Japan in mid-July on a two-year deal with Kobelco Steelers — perfect timing as the country prepares to host next year’s World Cup.
– ‘Not getting any younger’ –
Carter said it was “probably” the final chapter in his career.
“I’m obviously getting to the end of my career and it’s been an amazing career,” the fly-half mused.
“I’ve achieved so much and I’m looking forward to a new challenge. When you’ve played for as long as I have, you often need new experiences, new challenges to re-energise yourself.
“I’m obviously not getting any younger, but inside my head I still want to keep playing. I still have this love for the game.”
Carter said extending his contract to keep playing in France was never on the table, with his family now moving back to their New Zealand home while he plied his trade in the Japanese domestic league.
“I put the family first: send the family back and I play in a competition that is much shorter and I get to spend a lot more time back in New Zealand with my family.
“I’ve signed for two years there and to be honest I can’t see myself playing after my contract finishes in Japan.
“All good things come to an end. I’ll just make sure I’ll make the most of it over the next two years.”
– Rugby growing in Japan –
Carter dismissed claims that the Japanese Top League was a huge step down, with Australian veteran back Adam Ashley-Cooper a future teammate at the Kobelco Steelers.
“In Japan, rugby is growing at a dramatic rate,” he argued.
“You just have to look at the success the Japan team have had — they should have beaten France in November (which ended in a 23-all draw) and they beat South Africa in the last World Cup.
“It’s a competition I’m looking forward to experiencing.”
Turning to his future after Japan, Carter said he definitely saw himself “using rugby to give back to make people happy”.
“I have this amazing life that I live, and it’s through hard work that I’ve done that’s given me that life, but rugby has given me everything.
“When I decide to finally retire and finish playing, I want to use rugby to give back to people, whether it’s to underprivileged people, to children, to rugby-developing countries… in exactly what context I’m not sure.
“It’s almost my duty to use rugby to give back.”