Friends and foes: Racing 92’s Dan Carter encounters familiar faces in Hong Kong’s Natixis Cup
World Player of Year ready for some serious game time against Super Rugby champions the Highlanders
All Blacks World Cup star Dan Carter is preparing to play a big role for Racing 92 against reigning Super Rugby champions the Highlanders in the Natixis Cup at Siu Sai Wan stadium on Saturday.
Happy to be back in Hong Kong, Carter is itching to take on some of his old teammates and rivals.
“I’m keen to play,” Carter said. “Just when I thought I’d finished playing against the New Zealand franchises, this game came about.
“It’s a great chance to integrate northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere rugby and we’re looking forward to seeing exactly where we’re at compared to last year’s defending champions.”
With as many as 10,000 fans expected on Saturday night, Carter is hoping the fixture will promote the game amongst Hong Kong’s youth.
“It’s obviously a part of the world that junior rugby is growing so the chance to get a game here like this one is good,” Carter said. “It’s always good to see new fans from different parts of the world.”
With Racing 92 sitting second in the Top 14, Carter is enjoying his time in France and is relishing the opportunity presented by the latest phase in his career.
“It’s been just the challenge I needed,” Carter said. “After playing with the Crusaders and the All Blacks for 13 years, it was the change and new challenge that I needed.”
Racing 92 co-coach Laurent Travers is looking to his side to continue their good domestic form against an eager Highlanders outfit that has not played a game since the 2015 Super Rugby decider.
“We expect it to be a very tough match,” Travers said. “We all know the Highlanders play with a lot of strength and a lot of speed, so we expect a tough show.”
Despite his team being mid-season and featuring some players that need to be managed, Travers doesn’t expect to see any concessions.
“They are professionals so they are always going to go as hard as they can,” Travers said. “But of course in Europe in the domestic league you will always have the pressure to perform.”
One player who is truly immersing himself in the Natixis Cup concept is Racing 92 winger Joe Rokocoko, who first came to Hong Kong to play sevens for New Zealand in 2002.
“I think I was 19 and that was my second tournament ever, so I was thrilled to be here,” Rokocoko said.
“Every time I just think of Hong Kong as that rugby spirit, of that carnival feeling of everyone enjoying it, in the grandstands and on the field as well.
:Hopefully whoever comes over (on Saturday) can enjoy a bit of a spectacle from both of these teams.”