LONDON, November 20- Forwards may decide which side wins a rugby match and backs by how much but rarely can two fly-halves have had such a consistent effect on the margin of victory as Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter.Arguably the two best No 10s currently in world rugby union will be in opposition at Twickenham when Wilkinson’s struggling England face a New Zealand side with Carter at the helm.
Wilkinson was at his supreme best when he guided England to World Cup glory in 2003 but with injuries taking their toll in the intervening six years, Carter has come to the fore.
The All Blacks’ stand-off, who needs just two more points to become his country’s highest scorer in Test rugby, has only lined up against Wilkinson twice in his international career – and they were both in matches against the British and Irish Lions in 2005.
Their position and their importance to their respective sides are not the only things the duo have in common.
Both men have suffered with injury, although Carter’s problems are as nothing compared to Wilkinson’s litany of setbacks and they have each played club rugby in France.
Wilkinson is still at Toulon while last year saw Carter join Perpignan on a seven-month contract.
Less then two months into his deal, though, Carter ruptured his Achilles tendon, an injury which ruled him out for six months.
The mutual respect between the two outside-halves has been evident all this week and Wilkinson was in no doubt of Carter’s quality.
"When he is on form and playing well, which is most of the time, the team are obviously flying," said Wilkinson, Test rugby union’s leading points scorer. "And when that team is flying you know you are in trouble.
"As a 10 you have got to have the trust and respect and faith of all your team.
"In order to do that you have to do things over and over again, every time. It is not a fair weather job. You go out there and you do it.
"Whether it is scoring points, making decisions, defending, attacking, coming up with the big play himself, setting others up for the big play, he (Carter) does them all. The team can rely on him whenever they want, it doesn’t matter who it is against or what the conditions are.
"He has a skill level that is impeccably high. Is he one of the most skilful players there has ever been? I think without a doubt."
Wilkinson added: "And off the field he seems like a genuinely nice guy which is not always the best thing when you are playing against him. You rather hope they were something else, so you can help motivate yourself.
"He is obviously a deep character to be able to take on big injuries, to be able to take on challenges like moving to France. He has the personality, the character, the skills and without doubt the faith of his team.
Carter, champing at the bit after missing last week’s 20-6 win over Italy in Milan through suspension, took man-of-the-match honours in the victory against Wales that kicked off New Zealand’s European tour.
Wilkinson’s junior by three years, the 27-year-old Carter is well aware of the physical challenge posed by his rival stand-off, perhaps the toughest tackling No 10 Test rugby has known.
"I think that’s the great strength of his game, his physicality," Carter said of Wilkinson.
"He is always going to give 100 percent to the team and put his body on the line. His physicality is going to be a huge aspect of this weekend’s game."