England v New Zealand: Can Farrell get Carter?

Dan Carter has spent much of this year on the sidelines

New Zealand's legendary fly-half isn't the force he used to be, says Ralph Ellis, and that means the World Champions might not have as easy a ride as expected at Twickenham... 

"This is another good opportunity at 9.89/1 for a bargain back to lay bet - or to lay New Zealand/NewZealand at anywhere down to 1.282/7 in the Half Time/Full Time market."

Everybody wants to go out at the top. Paula Radcliffe wants to win one more London Marathon before she hangs up her running shoes. Michael Owen's still hoping for a sudden explosion of goals at Stoke before he turns to his horses full time.

But as Ricky Hatton discovered last week, it doesn't always work out that way. The search for redemption and a last hurrah often has a cruel conclusion. For every Paul Collingwood, who quit Test cricket the day after winning the Ashes in Australia, there's two or three like Andrew Flintoff who finished fighting, but failing, to overcome a series of crippling injuries.

The thought came this morning as I read about Dan Carter's determination to be fit to face England at Twickenham on Saturday. The world's all-time leading points scorer missed most of their winning World Cup campaign with a torn groin, and has sat out four other Tests this year with other injuries. The latest of them was last week when he cried off from the win over Wales with a calf strain.

But England at Rugby HQ is clearly a different matter, and Carter - on the day he announced he and wife Honor, a former New Zealand hockey captain, were expecting their first child - is pushing himself to play. "I didn't go over 50 per cent in training but it's the last game of the year and I want to be part of it," he said.

Carter is to New Zealand rugby what Sachin Tendulkar is to Indian cricket. He is the symbol of their team. But even for legends, time catches up, and while some might see the return to action of the man who has been the world's best fly-half as reason to confirm the All Blacks as 1.121/8 favourites for Saturday's Autumn international, it might just turn out a big clue to how England can turn this game on its head.

Being half fit and international sport don't mix. Carter is just as likely to hobble off after half an hour from the brutal environment of a rugby Test as he is to produce a signature performance. And while many will be watching for the 30-year-old maestro to dominate the game, one England player in particular will see it as a chance to prove he is the game's rising star. Owen Farrell will be promoted to fly-half in the absence through the injury of Toby Flood, and in my view not a moment too soon.

The 21-year-old was the star of the show when he got the chance to play at number ten against Wales on their way to a Grand Slam in February. England were winning when he went off after 66 minutes, and much of that was down to the way the youngster ran the game. He does it week after week for Saracens, and clearly has the big game mentality to grab a big stage like this one and make his case once more to get the job on a more permanent basis.

England messed up with their decision making against Australia, but weren't so far from winning. The young Farrell was criticised for publicly arguing with his captain. Ok, it was wrong, but I saw it as a sign that the boy is a winner, and just might be the inspiration for a shock result this week - at the very least it's another good opportunity at 9.89/1 for a bargain back to lay bet - or to lay New Zealand/NewZealand at anywhere down to 1.282/7 in the Half Time/Full Time market.

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