Carter speaks the language of success
Sacre bleu! He failed to master the French team on the field at the last World Cup, but Dan Carter is intent on conquering their language.
The All Blacks flyhalf, who has been switched to inside centre today, hopes to learn the lingo to make his entry into French society easier and pave the way for full integration with Perpignan next month.
Not that Carter, 26, needs to learn the vernacular, for even sign language from the star player will be enough to get the locals jumping to meet his every need. With his meticulous approach, Carter prefers to do it the proper way.
'I have got my iPod loaded with French lessons and I know the basics,' said Carter. 'I know enough to have got the gist of it, but I want to become fully versed. It is a hard language, but I hope it will be easier for me once I'm forced to speak it.'
Soon after the tour ends with the England match on November 29, Carter will hop across the Channel to join up with his new club for whom he will play for six months.
It is not something new for an All Black. Many others have gone before him, but the only difference - a huge one - in Carter's case is that he goes with the blessing of the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU).
Recognising that he is a true superstar - the next big one after Jonah Lomu - the NZRU inserted a sabbatical in his new contract which will take him to 2011 and the next World Cup. They feel if the All Blacks are to win the World Cup for the first time since 1987, they will need Carter in their midst.
'I feel very privileged to be given this sabbatical and not having to give up playing for the All Blacks,' Carter said. 'It is good that the union is thinking outside the square.'
New Zealand officials normally have a policy in place where only home-based players are eligible to be chosen for the All Blacks. In this day and age where the lure of big bucks - be it yen, francs or sterling - has seen many All Blacks hang up their treasured jersey and leave for foreign shores, Carter is indeed privileged.
Some sections of the media in New Zealand have asked why Carter is being favoured. He was allowed to take a six-week break after the Tri-Nations and did not have to figure in the season-ending Air New Zealand Cup. Carter admits he is fortunate to be able to continue playing for the All Blacks and extend his 54-cap streak.
'I know I'm lucky. I wanted to experience playing rugby in Europe and I don't have to give up my All Blacks jersey to do that. But this is just a one-off exercise,' he insisted.
After six months in France, where he will be playing 'three or four games' a month, Carter will return in time for the start of the southern hemisphere season in June, where he will rejoin the Crusaders as they bid to defend their Super 14 title.
Is he worried about burnout? 'Non.' Carter is confident he can handle 18 months of top-grade rugby on the trot.
'I'm not really all that worried,' said Carter. 'I had a six-week break after the Tri-Nations and I'm fresh. The decision not to play too much rugby now will pay off next year.'
For the moment, he has blanked out his French sojourn and is thinking no further than this afternoon's encounter.
'I'm going to give this team 100 per cent focus. I'm not going to worry about this Perpignan side until after the last game,' he said.
So for the moment, Carter has switched off his iPod too.