Christchurch (New Zealand) (AFP) - All Blacks legend Dan Carter turned out for his childhood rugby club in rural New Zealand Saturday to test his fitness ahead of a hoped-for return to Super Rugby.
The double World Cup winner and three times world player of the year played the full 80 minutes for the grassroots Southbridge side and contributed 12 points in their convincing 54-14 win over West Melton.
Played in front of around 1,000 spectators, it was Carter's first game since playing for the Kobe Steelers in Japan in February before the coronavirus pandemic forced a global sport shutdown.
The 38-year-old surprised the rugby world last month when he signed on with the Auckland Blues as injury cover when New Zealand launched its domestic Super Rugby competition.
He said at the time he was far from match fit and saw his role with the Blues more as a mentor rather than a player.
But after training through the first three rounds when Super Rugby resumed in New Zealand, Carter felt the urge for much-needed game time and returned to Southbridge where he played all his childhood rugby in a village about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Christchurch.
"The last three weeks have been pretty intense training... gradually building up my contact and getting my confidence back for playing again, so a bit of club rugby would be good," Carter said before the game.
Despite Carter's impressive return, Blues coach Leon MacDonald said he was unlikely to be selected for next week's Super Rugby showdown between the Blues and arch rivals the Canterbury Crusaders.
Carter played 141 games for the Crusaders and in 2009 famously turned down a lucrative offer to switch allegiance to the Blues because his grandmother Pam Carter opposed the move.
"She was very upset, and begging me not to play for Auckland... and she got me thinking about all the thousands of Canterbury people I'd be disappointing by leaving," the world's record Test point scorer said.
However, now Carter is in the twilight of his career his grandmother has given her blessing to play for the Blues.