At his fourth Rugby World Cup, with a record haul of points in the bag, Dan Carter has one final piece of business to attend to.
In his 112th Test, the celebrated New Zealand fly-half will finally get to contest a World Cup final when he bows out of international rugby against Australia on Saturday (Sunday AEDT).
“There were moments when I thought it might be the end, but I had to fight through that to be where I am today,” Carter said on Friday as he polished off kicking practice at Twickenham.
“It’s the love of the All Blacks jersey. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I got a taste for it in 2003 for the first time and never wanted it to end.”
The 33-year-old Carter goes into the finale playing some of the best rugby of his career, reminiscent of his golden performances against the 2005 British and Irish Lions.
His game-breaking displays have been recognised by his nomination for world player of the year, an award he has won twice before.
Carter is desperate to sign off with World Cup success after a tournament history littered with frustration and injury.
In the All Blacks’ victorious 2011 campaign, he only played two games before a groin injury ended his tournament.
New Zealand did not reach the final in 2003 and 2007.
But the rugby gods have smiled on Carter this year and he goes into Saturday’s final injury free before heading to France to end his playing days with Racing 92.
Over the past four years he has suffered multiple injuries and while there were days when he doubted his body would hold together enough for him to make the World Cup, Carter never lost the desire.
“What keeps you playing at the highest level is if your mind is willing to do it and you are prepared to do anything to keep at that level,” he said.
In the build up to the final, Carter has refused to discuss the showdown with the Wallabies as his final Test, saying “the team” performance was the sole focus.
But the accolades have been flowing. Wallabies backs coach Stephen Larkham rates Carter “clearly number one” in the pantheon of fly-halves.
Former Scotland international Gregor Townsend described Carter as “the Roger Federer of rugby”.
Despite his illustrious 13-years in the black jersey the unassuming playmaker has never had fame and records as a motivating factor.
“It’s not about me playing well to try to keep other people happy,” he said.
He bows out with a total of 1579 Test points, 333 more than the second-highest scorer, retired England great Jonny Wilkinson.
Carter is one of five long-serving All Blacks to cofirm they are bowing out at this World Cup joining Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Kevin Mealamu and Tony Woodcock whose career ended a few weeks prematurely when injured playing Tonga.
Captain Richie McCaw has indicated he will retire but has shelved making a decision until he returns to New Zealand.