Carter hopeful of winning fitness race to face England

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New Zealand stand-off Dan Carter believes he will be fit and available to face England this weekend.

Carter hurt his right calf in training last Thursday and had to withdraw from the All Blacks side which beat Wales 33-10 in Cardiff on Saturday. But he thinks he will be right to play at Twickenham in their last tour match. “The plan was to get through training and it was pretty light today. I didn’t go over 50 per cent. I got through it well,” said Carter yesterday. “We’re looking after it well and I’m pretty confident I’ll be right to play, I just need some positive thinking. It’s the last game of the year and I want to be part of it.”

The feeling is understandable. The All Blacks are on an unbeaten streak of 20 Tests, and Carter hasn’t played in ten of them. When the world’s best No 10 has been missing this year, the All Blacks have reduced the considerable impact of his absence by trusting in Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett, whose sterling play has earned the confidence of the team. At 30, Carter hopes to reach the 2015 World Cup, and make up for injuries which ruined his participation in the last two tournaments.

Despite injuries seeming to come more frequently, Carter, who announced overnight that his wife, Honor, was expecting their first child, said an extended rest wasn’t in his plans.

“The injuries are causing frustration more than concern. Believe it or not my body feels in pretty good nick,” he said. “They’re just little niggling injuries, little tears or tightness. I’m getting on a bit now. The sabbatical is in my contract but I haven’t thought too far beyond this year. The drive, hunger and desire to play my best each week are still there.”

Meanwhile, Courtney Lawes has been confirmed in England’s 23-man squad for the match. The Northampton lock, who made his comeback from a knee injury in the Saints’ Aviva Premiership win against London Welsh on Saturday, has replaced Mouritz Botha. The only other change to England’s match-day squad from last weekend’s 16-15 defeat by South Africa is the inclusion of uncapped Gloucester fly-half Freddie Burns in place of the injured Toby Flood.