No regrets: Racing 92 defend selection of injured Dan Carter after Euro loss to Saracens
Beaten finalists Racing 92 have “no regrets” over the selection of Dan Carter for the European Rugby Champions Cup final despite the former All Blacks legend nursing an injury, forwards coach Laurent Travers said this week.
Carter lasted only 43 minutes of the French club’s 21-9 defeat by Saracens from England before limping off with a calf injury he had initially sustained in the semi-final round.
The 34-year-old admitted after the game that he was left to make the call on his own fitness during the warm-up for last Saturday’s final at Lyon’s shiny new Parc Olympique Lyonnais stadium.
But Travers on Thursday defended the decision to start Test rugby’s highest points scorer.
“It makes me laugh because at the end of the match I think there were 60,000 coaches in the stadium including 59,997 – not Ronan [O’Gara], Laurent [Labit] and me – who were saying we shouldn’t have played Dan Carter,” Travers said.
“At the end of the match, it’s much easier [to say] what’s the right thing to do. If we hadn’t played him and lost, those same people would have said ‘Dan Carter at 40 per cent would have helped you win’.
“So we have no regrets. We take complete responsibility for the choices that were made and if we had to make them again we’d do the same thing.”
In Saturday’s final showdown, England international Owen Farrell kicked seven penalties to help Saracens rain on Carter’s parade.
A teak-tough defence and astute kicking game, aided by Farrell’s trusty boot, were key for what turned out to be a comfortable victory, although the game will not go down in the annals as one of the sport’s best spectacles.
Not that Saracens number eight Billy Vunipola cared.
“It’s awesome, we’re in that club now! We managed to pull it off. To win this trophy is a massive honour,” he said after the match.
“It was such an arm-wrestle. We made fewer mistakes. Credit to our front five and credit to big Fab [Farrell] for holding his nerve.”
Carter failed to influence the game in any way, visibly struggling with the pace and contact, and even opting from the off not to kick from the tee. He was replaced three minutes into the second-half to little fanfare.
His much-vaunted partnership with in-form scrum-half Maxime Machenaud was also short-lived as the France international went off concussed after just 18 minutes.
Both sides struggled to impose any kind of recognisable game plan, the match at times descending into harum-scarum tactics chasing a slippery ball in midfield and around the fringes of the ruck.
But Farrell was on fire and deservedly had the last word with his sixth and seventh penalties to seal Saracens’ first European title having not lost a game in this season’s competition.
After Montpellier’s 26-19 victory over Harlequins in the Challenge Cup the day before, Racing were seeking a first French double in European competition since 1997 when Brive and Bourgoin triumphed.