It was announced last week that the NZRFU has successfully re-signed their star First Five, Daniel Carter, for another four years. This news brought relief to many New Zealanders to know that their magician would be around post-World Cup. But is this deal really what it seems?
There is no questioning Carter's greatness. Over the past eight years he has time and time again shown us that he is the world's best No. 10, possibly the best ever. Along with having a radar-like kicking game, he is very strong defensively, while also possessing a very good running game, making him the complete First-Five.
Many have said that the All Blacks would struggle to the World Cup should he be unavailable come September. And they may have a case, as there is no real candidate to take the reins for the All Blacks should this happen.
Therefore, it would seem imperative to do whatever it takes to re-sign such a player. Right?
Maybe not. The one thing to remember is that Carter is no longer the young superstar with such a bright future. He is now 29 years old and has likely played his best rugby.
That's not to say he isn't still the best back in the world. But to think he's going to continue to improve would be a mistake.
The thing is, Carter is reaching the age where he will start slowing down and his running game won't be so prominent. Especially in four years time.
In 2015, Carter will be 33 years old. He will offer a ton of experience as well as a top class kicking game. But he won't be nearly as threatening with ball in hand and therefore won't possess the same complete game, which is what separates him from other First-Fives.
If possible, it would have made more sense to re-sign him for two years and then reassess the situation. That way the NZRFU wouldn't be locked in to having to stick with Carter if he begins to fade in three or four years time.
They have some good young First-Five's to bring through in Colin Slade, Aaron Cruden and Tyler Bleyendaal, all who could be used to fill Carter's shoes in time. After this World Cup, they have four years to develop one of these players into the next All Black First-Five, where Slade and Cruden will be at an age where they are reaching their best.
Of course, it will still be good to have Carter around, and he will be able to help these players gain knowledge and experience over the coming years. But to me, it would have been better to do this for two years, then reassess.
If Carter doesn't look like slowing down come 2013, re-sign him through to the next World Cup. But if it does seem he's past it, then there will be plenty of players who have been getting experience behind Carter who can come in and take the next step for the 2014 season.
It just seems like too much of a gamble to assume that Carter will still be the best option in four years time. Look at other greats to have played four World Cups. None have made the same impact as they had done earlier in their careers.
Take Jonny Wilkinson or Brian O'Driscoll for example. Both great players in their day but are more just hangers-on these days and it is more their presence and reputation that keeps them held in such high regard, coming from a reluctance to let go. Both will play their fourth World Cup Tournaments this year, should they be selected for their respective countries.
And it seems as though this could be the same problem for New Zealand. A reluctance to let go and move on. Sure Carter has been a great player and he will no doubt be one of the stars of the 2011 World Cup. But at some stage New Zealand has to come to terms with the fact that Dan Carter won't be the player he currently is forever. It has been the downfall of many teams in the past and certainly has potential to be a downfall for the All Blacks.
The counter argument of this is that it is uncertain whether Carter would have taken the deal had it been for two years. The four years was certainly one of the major selling points and may very well have been what swayed Carter to re-sign.
It was undoubtedly necessary to re-sign Carter. He will be crucial as the All Blacks look ahead to the next World Cup, either as a player or as a means to develop others. But at what price? Signing Carter for four years seems too long and too much of a gamble. Two years and then reassess would be a better option. While it may turn out that Carter is still playing world class rugby in 2015, it seems unlikely. I can only hope he proves me wrong.