Dan Carter: Richie McCaw is always the first to put his body on the line
Dan Carter has hailed his fellow All Blacks superstar Richie McCaw as "a legend of the game" ahead of him reaching another career landmark.
McCaw will captain New Zealand for a World Cup record 12th time in Saturday's semi-final against South Africa at Twickenham.
Earlier this year, McCaw became the most-capped player in rugby union history, with the Springboks clash set to be his 147th Test. He has also skippered the All Blacks on more than 100 occasions.
And All Blacks fly-half Carter, who will quit international rugby after the World Cup to join wealthy French club Racing 92, believes McCaw is one of a kind.
"He leads the team fantastically well. He is an inspiration, a player that really motivates this side because of his actions," Carter said.
"You see him at training. He is first out, and last to leave. His work ethic is fantastic.
"Out on the field, he is the first guy to put his body on the line, and when you are working so closely with him, it inspires you to do the same.
"To have such longevity in this demanding game goes to show his professionalism, his drive and desire to play at this level. I feel honoured to play alongside this legend of the game."
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Carter will win his 111th cap this weekend, with New Zealand arriving in the semi-finals following a blistering 62-13 victory over France last Saturday.
It was a result and performance that underlined their status as clear favourites to win a history-making second successive world title.
"This is another do-or-die match against some quality opposition we've played against quite a bit, so there is a lot of edge in training," Carter added.
"You often get asked the question who the toughest opposition is, and it does vary, but consistently throughout my career South Africa have been right up there.
"The way they play the game, they are extremely physical, and you know that once you've played them, you will be sore for a few days. Nothing will change this weekend.
"It's a different ball-game when you are playing South Africa in a World Cup play-off game. It means so much more. It's a huge challenge."
One feature of the current World Cup has been the consistently outstanding performances of 30-somethings like McCaw, South Africa flanker Schalk Burger and Springboks skipper Fourie du Preez, while it would come as no surprise if 33-year-old Carter ran the show this weekend.
"It does get tougher with age, and you have to work a bit harder to stay at the highest level," Carter said.
"Professionalism has changed a lot, so that guys are playing a bit longer as they have recovery and look after themselves a lot more.
"It is up to the individual. The body can be fine, but it is that drive and desire that is important when you have been playing so long. That is what keeps you in the game."