Carter relishing European Cup hype

 Dan Carter (Getty)
Dan Carter (Getty)

Paris - Dan Carter said lining up against Toulon and "good mate" Ma'a Nonu in the European Champions Cup will be "special".

The Racing 92 flyhalf will make his debut in the competition at home to reigning champions Toulon on Sunday and the New Zealand legend said this was one of the reasons he chose to end his international career and head to Europe.

"When you think of European rugby, there's the great competitions with a lot of history like the (French) Top 14, the (English) Premiership, but the ultimate level is the European Championship," said the 34-year-old, who expects people to be sitting up and taking notice back home.

"I can see a few of the rugby supporters back home starting to take an interest once you get to the playoffs.

"I've watched a few European championship games and the finals, the playoff games, just to see the crowds that they get and the importance and just the hype around those games -- that's something pretty special.

"So when I was looking for a club in Europe, I wanted a strong club that would give me a chance to play in that competition because as a player you want to be playing in the best competitions and that's definitely one of them."

Carter will come up against the man who spent much of the last decade in an All Black jersey playing on his outside shoulder: Nonu.

But Carter says facing up to his fellow cap-centenarian will be old hat.

"I haven't even thought about it to be honest, that I'll be lining up against one of my good mates," he added.

"I guess it's nothing new for me, we've played against each other at Super Rugby level for the last 12-13 years. We've matched up against each other in Crusader-Hurricanes games, so it's nothing new - I always enjoy playing against my good mates, it'll be good fun."

While Carter settled straight in at Racing and has been a huge success, Nonu took a little more time on the south coast and even complained a couple of months ago that his team don't throw the ball around enough.

"It's not easy to make that transition and the class of the player has come out and he's shown what hes capable of the last three months playing at Toulon," said Carter.

"He's been fantastic, he's been one of their best players, so I'm not too sure what all the talk early was. He's found his feet and is obviously a lot more comfortable in that team now and he's showing why he's one of the best players in the world."

And Carter says the halfback position he plays, dictating the game plan, made it easier for him to adapt to the more forward and kick-oriented style in the northern hemisphere than centre Nonu.

"There's definitely challenges, it's not going to be exactly as we had at home. He (Nonu) is obviously in a slightly different position where I'm directing play and can choose to kick the ball or pass, whereas he's not in that position at one wider where he doesn’t have that decision.

"So I can understand his frustration. I'm lucky enough to have experienced roughly what to expect here six years ago (during a brief stint with Perpignan) so it's not about coming here to try to change things to the way we did it back home in New Zealand, it's more about just trying to fit in the best way possible to the way that things are done with your club.

"That's probably why he had those frustrations early on, but he's adapted now."

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