Dan Carter: It'll take more than bonus points to make the Six Nations more attractive
After the glorious attacking rugby of the 2015 World Cup, the current edition of the Six Nations has been even harder to watch than usual.
The tournament's offensive plight is best summed up by Ireland's paltry try-scoring numbers - two tries in 240 minutes of rugby. There have been a few suggestions as to how the annual 'spring' tournament could be improved - spring needs to be in quotations marks to hammer home just how arctic the weather is despite the season - but nothing has been adopted by the organisers as of yet.
Playing it at a different time of year has been talked about but as long as the northern hemisphere season is structured as it is currently, February-March is the only practical time for the competition to take place.
Bonus points is another suggestion, one that would reward attacking rugby - a concept abandoned by teams for the majority of their five yearly contests.
Legendary All Blacks out-half Dan Carter was advocating their introduction in an interview last week, but doesn't think bringing in a four-try incentive will automatically improve the spectacle.
"I don't think it [bonus points] is a magical remedy," Carter tells the Independent.ie.
"Just by adding bonus points I don't think it is going to make the game more attractive. If they did do that then it would give them a bit more incentive to go and score tries. That is something throughout my career that I've been involved in and I know from experience that when you score a couple of tries instead of sitting on your lead and trying to protect the win, it pushes you to play a more open style and look for that four try bonus point."
Carter points to the nature of the Six Nations as something that provides drama but doesn't neccesarily lend itself to free-flowing rugby. One defeat can be the difference between a championship and leaving empty-handed, which Carter thinks is detrimental to the game's style.
"Obviously it comes down to the teams and the individuals and what style they are trying to play," Carter said.
"It is actually a really demanding competition. It is really tight and so much is riding on each game. You only get to play teams once. When the game is tight you tend not to push that pass or play a little more conservative and that doesn't help."
Carter has gotten more exposure to northern hemisphere rugby since his arrival at Racing Metro this season, where he is being coached by his legendary Irish counterpart, Ronan O'Gara.
O'Gara has progressed quickly as a coach, getting promoted from kicking/skills coach to overseeing the Racing defence. Given that O'Gara wasn't renowned for his defensive ability during his career, the fact that he has masterminded the stingiest rearguard in the Top 14 this season is a little surprising, to Carter at least.
"For a player who we used to attack defensively when we played Ireland to now being a defensive coach," he said with a laugh.
"He has so much drive and desire and a good understanding of the game that I'm not surprised he has had success early on in his career. I've really enjoyed working alongside him with Racing, my old arch-rival to now being my coach. I'm pretty happy that he has decided to extend his career at Racing."
"He still enjoys a bit of banter now and then," Carter continued.
"We often give him a bit of a ribbing for that [his defence as a player]. He is not the biggest man but he has got a big heart and a lot of understanding defensively. It brings out the best in the players. That is often the case for any good coach and he definitely does that."
Unlike O'Gara, who ended his international career with an uncharacteristically poor Six Nations in 2013, Carter had the perfect farewell by winning the World Cup medal that injury cruelly denied him in 2007.
The New Zealander struggled with injuries for years before rediscovering his best form at the perfect time, winning IRB Player of the Year after seeing off France, South Africa and Australia in the World Cup knockout stages.
Despite having some pre-tournament misgivings, Carter was delighted with how his time in the All Blacks jersey finished up.
"There was a lot of doubt in my body," Carter said.
"I had a lot of injuries and a couple of bad years where I just had no faith in my body and I thought that might be the end. There is a lot of competition coming through but that drive to have a crack at one last World Cup was a real motivation for me. I managed to string together a few games in a row and get that confidence back in my body. To have a World Cup where I could really contribute to the All Blacks winning back to back World Cups was extremely pleasing."