Former All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter gave himself a pass mark after his first game of rugby in New Zealand since 2015 but was not expecting to make a marketers' dream debut for the Auckland Blues next week against the Canterbury Crusaders.
Carter surprisingly joined the Blues last month for Super Rugby Aotearoa but said he would need a few weeks to get up to speed and took his first tentative steps back on Saturday, playing for boyhood club Southbridge in a Canterbury club match.
"If anyone saw that game today, I'd say myself that I'm a bit rusty," Carter told reporters after he kicked six conversions and had a hand in two tries in Southbridge's 54-14 victory over West Melton.
"It's good to make the first step in to potentially playing again. I'm not sure if I could play at Super Rugby level just yet. You leave those kinds of decisions up to the coaches."
A three-times World Player of the Year and World Cup winner in 2011 and 2015, Carter spent his entire professional career in New Zealand playing for the Christchurch-based Crusaders.
He joined the Blues after stints in France and Japan, but has not played since February after Japan's Top League was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He has also barely played in the past 18 months after undergoing neck surgery in 2019.
While many Crusaders fans good naturedly considered his joining their bitter rivals the Blues as treasonable, there were hopes he might make his Super Rugby Aotearoa debut for the Blues next week in Christchurch.
"Whether I play or not, I'm not too worried," Carter added after he played the entire 80 minutes on Saturday.
"I'll leave that decision to (coach) Leon (MacDonald) and the selectors up at the Blues."