Dan Carter has admitted that New Zealand’s stated mission to make Rugby World Cup history was “a pretty daunting goal”.
But the All Blacks will head home as undisputed kings of the sport, crowned world champions for a second successive time and achieving what no other country has accomplished.
And Carter can now begin a three-year adventure with French club Racing 92, having signed off a 112-cap Test career as unquestionably the finest stand-off of rugby union’s 20-year professional era.
“I would have loved to have been in that New Zealand side playing in the [World Cup] final four years ago, but unfortunately I couldn’t because of injury,” he said. “I’ve had to work extremely hard over the last four years ago to get this. There were times over that four years when I was doubting if I would be here or not, so it’s a dream come true.
“It was a pretty daunting goal trying to win back-to-back World Cups and do something that no other side has done before. To be able to sit here and say that we’ve done that is just amazing. I am so proud to be part of such a special group of guys.
“The typical trend is that you don’t back up well after winning a World Cup. The fact that we did that and stayed as the number one side over the past four years has been pleasing. This is just the icing on the cake.
“I am looking forward to celebrating something pretty unique over the next week or so. Then I need to catch up with family before moving over to France and starting a new chapter in my life.”
Carter’s 19-point haul proved instrumental in New Zealand sinking arch-rivals Australia 34-17, in what was the third-biggest World Cup final victory margin.
“It has been an amazing career for me, personally,” he added. “I couldn’t have written it better, to be honest, and to finish on such a high. It’s obviously time for me to move on and retire from international rugby, so I will be doing that, but first and foremost I will be celebrating and enjoying the next week with a special bunch of guys.
“You’ve got to enjoy moments like these. It is why we play the game. There are a few guys departing, and this team will never be together again, so we need to enjoy the next couple of days before flying home, then it will be time to celebrate with our families and friends.”
Steve Hansen, meanwhile, expects his reign as the All Blacks head coach to end when his contract expires in 2017.
“There’s a reason why the contract only lasts until 2017, because I’m not sure about that [his future],” Hansen said.
“I wouldn’t say ‘no’ but I’m certainly not saying ‘yes’ either. You only get 10 years for murder back home so...!
“I like the idea of changing the guard halfway through a cycle which has a World Cup in the middle of it.
“I would probably say it is more likely that I won’t be there after 2017. It’s been a good trip so far and we’ve just got to finish it off.”
Skipper Richie McCaw, who has yet to confirm his retirement from the sport, has outlined the role Hansen has played in shaping New Zealand into the most successful team in World Cup history by being crowned champions for a third time.
“When we won in 2011, Steve put a full stop on it. He inspired the belief and desire that we could do something special now, while doing everything right along the way,” McCaw said.
“Four years ago when he said we wanted to be number one until the next World Cup and win it again, you sort of go ‘jeepers, you’re thinking a long way out’.
“But his belief rubbed off on everyone. Steve never let complacency slip in. He brought in new players with energy and had faith that they would do the job.”