London - Dan Carter has unfinished business at the Rugby World Cup.
A deep desire to lead the All Blacks to victory in a final has driven the superstar flyhalf to extend his career to the next World Cup in England next year.
To that end, he's four months into a six-month sabbatical from rugby to give his 32-year-old, beaten-up body as much chance of making it to a fourth and final World Cup.
Carter was part of New Zealand teams which lost in the 2003 semifinals and 2007 quarterfinals. He was on the sideline in blazer and tie in 2011 when his teammates won the trophy on home soil, his tournament brought to an abrupt end in the pool stage by a groin injury.
Carter said watching the team triumph without him was frustrating, but he told The Associated Press on Wednesday that also motivated him “to continue to work hard and be a part of the 2015 All Blacks squad.”
“I have achieved a lot in my career but have never really had a lot of success come World Cup time,” said Carter, who was in London for a sponsorship announcement and kicked some balls off a barge at Tower Bridge. “That's why 2011 was really mixed emotions for me. I was so proud of the team and actually felt involved and part of winning the World Cup, which is great. But to not be there in the playoff stage (...) was frustrating.”
Another injury ruined a milestone last November, when he came limping off Twickenham in the first half of a win against England on the occasion of his 100th test. Soon after he had surgery to remove bone spurs in his right ankle.
He is planning to return to competition in July with the Crusaders in Super Rugby, but the world's leading test point-scorer will miss the three-test home series against England in June.
Long regarded as the best flyhalf in the world, Carter has been hit by an awful lot of injuries. Since the 2011 World Cup, he's been fit enough to play in only 15 of New Zealand's 32 tests. The maturation of backups Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett has also diminished New Zealand fears of playing without Carter.
Carter is adamant his extended break will not only help him shoot for the World Cup, but also give him the chance to play longer in an All Blacks jersey.
“The break has been fantastic, not only physically but also mentally,”he said. “It's my 12th season this year so it's been really refreshing. It was a chance just to step back and work hard on my body, so the last few months I've been training really hard just to get on top of my little niggles, just to mentally freshen up.
“When I return to play in July it's only 14 months until the World Cup. The longer I have off the more motivated I am to return to play.”
In England next year, New Zealand will be looking to become the first team to win back-to-back World Cups.
“We love making history and doing new things so it's going to be a real goal for us.” he said. “But there is still a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of competition.”