sport

Carter: England lack consistency

New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter is surprised by England's lack of progress after 2003 when he recalls them "teaching us a lesson".

Since losing 15-13 in Wellington nine years ago to Sir Clive Woodward's team - who went on to lift the World Cup - the All Blacks have won all nine meetings between the rivals.

An appearance in the 2007 final fails to disguise England's regression into an average team incapable of challenging the southern hemisphere giants.

Defeat to the world champions at Twickenham on Saturday would complete an inglorious autumn after losses against Australia and South Africa.

It is a decline that Carter, who expects to win his battle with an Achilles/calf injury and start for the All Blacks, finds curious.

"Yes I'm surprised England haven't done more since 2003. They've shown the strength of their side only in patches since then," he said.

"Maybe consistency is what's been lacking. They've got the players, so talent's not an issue. They can beat any side on their day.

"It was in 2003 that I got the All Black jersey for the first time, though unfortunately I didn't get the chance to get on.

"England were in their prime and had a pretty successful year. They taught us a lesson at home.

"We have real pride in not losing at home and they took it to us that night."

While England reacted to their World Cup triumph by descending into freefall, the All Blacks have plotted a different course.

Unbeaten since August last year, their only subsequent blemish in 20 Tests has been October's 18-18 draw with Australia and they have since swept aside Scotland, Italy and Wales on their annual romp through Europe.

Added to the statistics is the universal consensus they are playing rugby that identifies them as untouchable.

Carter, who announced that his wife Honor is expecting their first child, revealed that lifting the Webb Ellis trophy last autumn has inspired even higher standards.

"It's a very new squad so it doesn't feel like there's any less pressure playing for the All Blacks now that we've won a World Cup," he said.

"It's more the fact of proving a lot of people wrong in some way or another.

"History has shown that teams that win the World Cup have pretty average seasons the following year.

"That's been a big focus for us this year. We want to be an even better and stronger side.

"The success that we've had this year has been great. There's a lot of self-belief in this squad and that's shown in the way we play.

"We never look too far ahead and every time we pull on the All Black jersey it's a chance to add to the legacy.

"There's a lot of pressure playing for the All Blacks with the whole country watching and expecting you to win.

"We thrive on that pressure and love it. Every time you get to pull on the Black jersey you're wanting to perform.

"If you have that drive each week you tend to win more than you lose."

New Zealand's domination of Test rugby is mirrored by Carter's ongoing brilliance, ensuring his position as the sport's finest fly-half - and probably its greatest player - is unchallenged.

The 30-year-old will win his 94th cap on Saturday, but injury is beginning to interrupt his career.

Once the final whistle sounds at Twickenham All Blacks captain Richie McCaw begins a six-month sabbatical designed to increase his longevity in the game and Carter may follow suit in the future.

"The injuries are causing frustration more than concern. Believe it or not my body feels in pretty good nick," Carter said.

"They're just little niggling injuries, little tears or tightness. I'm getting on a bit now!

"The sabbatical is in my contract but I haven't thought too far beyond this year.

"The drive, hunger and desire to play my best each week are still there."