Dan Carter admitted he could hardly have a better ending to his glittering international career after his man-of-the-match performance helped the All Blacks to a historic World Cup triumph.
The No 10’s flawless kicking put New Zealand in control and then ended Australia’s hopes after the Wallabies threatened a comeback – Carter scored 19 points including a quite stunning drop-goal as the All Blacks won 34-17 in the final at Twickenham.
It was Carter’s 112th cap and the success was even sweeter having missed out on New Zealand’s World Cup four years ago.
He told ITV: “This win is right up there with everything I’ve done in my career – it is the ultimate achievement. It has been an amazing career and to finish like this is hard to believe.
“This victory means a lot – it was a dark place four years ago and I’ve had to work extremely hard to be here today.
“I’m proud of the boys and what they have achieved. Becoming the first team to retain the trophy shows how special this side is.”
New Zealand captain Richie McCaw is also set to hang up his boots after 149 caps and head coach Steve Hansen rates his skipper and Carter as the best All Blacks of all time.
Hansen said: “Richie is the best All Black we have ever had and Dan is a close second.
“The only thing that separates them is Richie has played 149 matches at flanker, which is unheard of – you put your body on the line every time you go there. The challenge for the other guys now is to to try and become as great as him and Dan.”
McCaw himself said becoming the only side to retain the World Cup felt “special” – and different to 2011 when the overwhelmingly feeling was one of relief.
He said: “It is a different feel to 2011 when the final was tighter, and it was a massive relief four years ago. This time it was an opportunity that we really wanted to take and rather than a huge sense of relief it was a sense of satisfaction at having got the job done.
“I feel pretty warm inside and proud and I’m going to spend the next couple of days enjoying the company of these men.
”We said four years ago after the last one that we’d get on the road again and our goal was to play here at Twickenham in the World Cup final.
“I’m so proud of the way the guys have done it today. We lost a bit of momentum in the second half but kept our composure and came home strong, which has been a hallmark of this team for the last four years.”
Hansen also paid tribute to Australia for putting up a strong fight in the second half.
He added: “On a night like this it’s extremely tough for the loser but I thought Australia were magnificent in the way they approached the game, they never laid down.
“At 21-3, you could be fooled into thinking the game was over but at 21-17 they could easily have come back.
“Whilst we are very proud of what we have achieved as a group we would like to say well done to Australia as well.”