DAN Carter is tapping into his memory bank as he makes his return to the All Blacks’ No.10 jersey.
Hand and calf injuries mean the star playmaker will make just his second Test appearance of the year when he runs out against Argentina in Hamilton on Saturday night.
His only previous appearance was against France in New Plymouth in June.
Carter admits it’s been a challenge to reach September and to have had limited time training with the All Blacks.
“But I just have to draw on my experience of being in situations before where I’ve had injury and then returned and played well,” the 31-year-old said.
“It means I have to work harder with the combinations around me, which are a bit different this weekend, but the excitement levels are high.”
Carter will operate outside halfback Aaron Smith, with whom he was last paired nine months ago in the 38-21 defeat to England at Twickenham.
“It’s been a while,” Carter said. “Nothing changes just because I’m back in the jersey.
“He still has to go out there and lead like he has been leading and playing well.”
Carter had 60 minutes alongside debutant second five-eight Francis Saili during the All Blacks’ practice hit-outs against Canterbury and Wellington in August.
He said they had worked on their understanding this week and the key was to give the rookie the confidence to play his game.
Carter, who also had an injury-disrupted 2012, will take a six-month sabbatical after the All Blacks’ end-of-year tour as he looks to prolong his career through to the 2015 World Cup.
The Test at Waikato Stadium will be his 96th and he is one point short being the first player to score 1400 Test points.
The development shown by the likes of Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett and Tom Taylor means Carter’s absence this season haven’t produced the alarms bells that rung out he was felled by a groin injury during the 2011 World Cup.
Carter said the competition for his position was keeping him on his toes.
“It’s great to see the depth we have at the moment and they’ve all made the most of the opportunities they’ve been given,” he said.
“It’s the same for me. I’ve been given an opportunity, so I just have to make the most of it.”