Carter Slips Past Wilkinson: Lest We Forget…

23 11 2010

With Dan Carter needing only one more kick to overhaul Jonny Wilkinson’s all time points scoring record of 1,178 points in test match rugby, we thought we would take the opportunity to write something about both of these wonderful players and particularly, Compulsive Hooker favourite, Jonny.

Wilkinson’s record was always likely to be overtaken by this extraordinary All Black, particularly given Jonny’s injury woes over the past 7 years, and it is a tribute to Carter’s ability to avoid injury that he has reached this mark so quickly. It is a generally undisputed opinion that Carter is, if not the best fly half ever, certainly the best of the professional era – beyond that it gets difficult to say with the game having changed so substantially. Whilst at this point we will say that we probably agree with this argument – it is also fair to say that people are only human, and the majestic nature of Wilkinson’s form from his debut in 1998 through to the World Cup final has simply faded from the memory in an onslaught of All Black perfection.

The thing of course that Wilkinson had in common with Carter between 1999, say, and the end of 2003, was that the team he was playing for were, on the whole, the best in the world. (At this point I hear Springbok fans shout in outrage but even they have to admit this point – apart from 2009 the Boks couldn’t lay claim to have this title). During this time Wilkinson averaged 15.5 points per game and wracked up 853 points in 55 tests. Post world cup, and at the helm of a dire England team whilst his own performances were being interrupted by regular injury, his record dropped off to a moderate 325 points in 31 matches – an average of just 10.5 points per game.

Carter has had the luxury of never having played in a poor team and has usually been provided with the ball on the front foot and a collection of brilliant backs outside him. Whilst, on balance, we would never begrudge him his title as best of the professional era (and indeed rate him as one of our favourite players ever) it is an interesting but ultimately academic point to see what sort of impact he would have had on an England team circa 2008 (or ’05, ’06, ’07 etc for that matter…).  For our money he would have remained an outstanding player but even the great fly halves rely on players outside them and a pack going forward to really showcase their talents properly.

Carter’s average points per game is 14.9, a mere half point behind Wilkinson’s record when he and England were at their peak, but comfortably ahead of the England 10’s overall record of 13.7. Had Carter played in poor teams this would have inevitably come down – 0r perhaps a better way of saying it is – had Wilkinson played in better sides / not been injured so frequently his record would probably have maintained itself somewhere close to the incredible levels back in 2003.

One area where Carter is clearly far ahead is in the numbers of tries scored; 29 to Wilkinson’s 6. This bears out the fact that Wilkinson was more of a kicking fly half as opposed to Carters classical running style, yet it is important to remember that the England player could also run. Up until 2003, England scored an average of 3 tries a game* – and that is only against the Tri Nations and 6 Nations sides – a large part of which was down to Wilkinson’s ability to open up a game with his brilliant passing. No matter what people say, he could definitely do that too.

Carter, with his slightly more rounded game, is probably the better player of the two – yet we believe that people are already writing off Wilkinson’s achievements unfairly and calling him, in an ever so slightly derogatory manner, ‘just a kicking fly half’. He was more much more than that – one aspect, for example, where he shades Carter is his tackling – and quite frankly, it should be enough that both deserve to be called great.

*All stats are from Scrum.com’s statsguru tool.

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2 responses

23 11 2010
Brian Carpenter

Good stuff, guys. Anyone who tries to claim that Wilkinson was never really that good is probably an idiot, but, if not, they just have a memory too short and too selective to remember back to the 2003 World Cup and before.

A bit like those people who labour under the peculiar delusion that England have always been ‘stodgy ‘, have ‘never run the ball’ and other such nonsense.

The best thing such people can do is to sit down with a recording of England playing Ireland at Twickenham on 16th February 2002. Then they’ll know how good Woodward’s England – and Jonny – were.

23 11 2010
Bradders

Thats funny – I almost mentioned that game against Ireland. He was outstanding in that match.

Amazing how many people do labour under this delusion though – a quick surf on the comments on one or two southern hemisphere frequented websites shows just how easily people have forgotten.

Cheers for the comment. Nice to know there are other like minded people around!

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