The former All Black, who signed off a remarkable international career by winning the World Rugby Player of the Year and claiming the World Cup for New Zealand, had his media bow delayed when he was briefly locked out of Racing’s training base in the Paris suburb of Plessis-Robinson, But once inside, he quickly laid out his ambitions for his second spell in France, citing Wilkinson’s indian summer at Toulon as inspiration.
“When I was following the end of his career, I took a bit of inspiration from that. A lot of people had probably written him off up until then but it revived his career and he finished on a real high. I can only dream of the success that he had in his time here in France. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Carter will reportedly earn €1m per year at Racing but insisted there was more to this move than money.
“You can make pretty good money playing in New Zealand too, it’s not all bad,” he said. “It depends at what stage you’re at in your career. Because of that [higher salaries] it’s slightly more attractive to play in France, but the thing is you can’t play international rugby any more for the All Blacks and that’s why I stayed in New Zealand for 13 years.
“But the timing is right to try a new challenge, not just for rugby. It’s a pretty exciting place to bring your family for a few years.”
It means Carter having to accept the end of his career in the iconic black shirt.
“That debate [overseas-based players not being eligible for New Zealand] will always be there; Australia opened up the doors to bring players back, it’s the same in South Africa but there’s so much depth in New Zealand rugby that they don’t need players like me to come back.
“I’ve accepted the ruling and I’m happy to retire from international rugby and move onto this challenge.”
Carter will begin training on Monday and vowed to take French lessons immediately as he looks to settle quickly into Parisian life. He admitted he was rocked by the terrorist attacks in the French capital.
“At first I was just shocked with what happened,” he said. “I didn’t even think about my future here or contemplate whether to come here. Later on, I started to think about the move, but it’s important that life continues.
“There has been so much reassurance about the city of Paris from the people we talked to, it gave us confidence that life has gone on here, so nothing changed. I’m still just as excited about coming and starting a new chapter here as I always have been.”
Carter will be presented to Racing fans today at the home game against Toulouse, which moved from Stade de France to Stade Yves du Manoir.
And he explained how a chat with Ronan O’Gara, his new skills, kicking and defence coach, ensured he will get to know his new teammates at a barbecue tomorrow. “I was speaking with Ronan,” he said, “and told him I was keen to get up to speed with some of the players.”
He even attempted to recruit the assembled press to help with his relocation. “I’ve got so many boxes to unpack that you’re all invited.”