O'Gara has big future in coaching - Carter
Published 11/03/2016 | 02:30
If the Queen believes the world smells like fresh paint, then maybe Dan Carter thinks everyone has perfectly coiffured hair and 'Sunday Best' clothes as just a matter of course.
Carter's star is such that his appeal spreads well beyond just sport. In one Dublin bar yesterday, the guts of 50 people were attached to his press conference in various ways and all were in their finery.
Even the sports media, usually as ragtag a bunch as you can get, had cleaned themselves up for the great man's appearance. It seemed like the least we could do.
Having operated in the All Blacks media machine for 13 years, Carter is a master interviewee. He doesn't get drawn into anything he's not willing to talk about but does it with a certain charm.
Retail giant Aldi had Carter in Dublin to promote the Foroige Youth Citizenship awards. Pronouncing the name of the organisation was, he admitted, a challenge before his Racing 92 coach Ronan O'Gara put him right.
"(I was saying) Fer-oje or something. Something completely wrong," he said.
Carter's relationship with the Corkman is working well. O'Gara is helping him settle into life in the French capital and learn the language, something he needs to get up to speed on given most of the in-play calls are in French. The pair are tied together until 2019, with O'Gara's recently inked contract bringing his stay in Paris in line with Carter's.
O'Gara's competitive streak hasn't left him and the decision of the world's greatest out-half to pitch up on his patch sparked something in him. Post-training kicking competitions are the norm, with Carter unbeaten when the pair go head-to-head.
"There's a bit of banter going about our kicking, we've had a few competitions and I'm undefeated against him - I'm quite proud of that," Carter said of his new assistant coach. "There's no coaching, it's just purely competitiveness - (it's) winner takes all.
"We're not trying to help each other at all. We're trying to get one up on each other. It's all light-hearted. I played a lot against him but didn't know him all that well. He's a top man so I'm enjoying having him at the club."
O'Gara's remit now extends to Racing's defensive set-up, having first joined the club as kicking and skills coach and his work has been exemplary. Racing boast the best defensive record in both the Top 14 and Champions Cup this season.
"Who would have thought it? Playing against Ireland we used to target the 10 channel and now he's a defence coach!" Carter smiled.
"He has brought a lot to the Racing 92 coaching staff, particularly defence, which he runs.
"A lot of it is about his understanding of the game and also his sort of attitude.
"He brings the best out of players. He doesn't settle for anything other than the best, so if we don't perform he comes down on us pretty hard. Defence often is about attitude, obviously a lot of technical things as well, but attitude and wanting to.
"We've got a great team culture and wanting to work hard for your team-mates and I think that's shown the best through defence.
"He's really driving that and leading the way."
Concussion remains the hot topic in rugby in both hemispheres and it has prompted some outlandish commentary regarding the removal of the tackle from age-grade rugby, something Carter described as "silly".
"Something through my career that has grown the most is knowledge of concussions and the medical knowledge and rules that are set in place now," he explained.
"When I started and you had a concussion you wouldn't come off. You'd continue to play the game and play the following week.
"There was no structure in place. Now there's amazing structures in place. If anyone is concussed or even looks concussed they're taken off the field and given tests.
"You've just got to back that knowledge and understanding. It's a contact sport. It's not just rugby having this issue. It's all contact sports.
"I'm comfortable with it as a player. I think it is silly to ban tackling for all players under 18 because that's when they learn the fundamentals.
"In New Zealand we don't play tackle until we are nine or 10. We play a tag rugby. You try to rip that tags off your opposition. They are around your waist so mentally you are teaching correct tackle habits to rip a tag off.
"All you've got to do to tackle is wrap your arm but as a contact sport it's always going to be there."