Paris — Pat Lambie aims to give Dan Carter a winning European send-off from his French club career when Racing 92 face Leinster in Saturday’s Champions Cup final even if it means leaving the All Blacks legend warming the bench.
South African flyhalf Lambie, who at 27 is nine years younger than Carter, will start the final in Bilbao as Racing seek to secure a first European title against the three-time winners.
Carter was part of the Racing team which lost the 2016 final to Saracens before earning a degree of redemption with a man-of-the-match performance in the 29-21 Top 14 final victory over Toulon a few weeks later.
"It’s really nice to have him on the same side and to have trained and played with him, seen how he does things and speak to him about the game and life outside rugby as well," Lambie said. The player heads for a club career in Japan at the end of this season.
Lambie said he had some sympathy for Carter, who will again be poised to play a super-sub role for Racing on Saturday just as he did to devastating effect in the quarterfinal win over Clermont.
"I don’t think we have ever had a problem with our relationship because I have played at centre with him at flyhalf and at full-back with him at flyhalf and I have been on the bench with him at flyhalf," said Lambie.
"These are his last games, there’s a lot to play for. I know this is a huge desire of his to win the Champions Cup and I’m sure he wants to win the Top 14 again as well."
Whereas Carter joined Racing in 2015, after his 112th and final international saw him lead the All Blacks to a successful World Cup defence, Lambie is in his first season in Paris having left his boyhood club the Sharks in 2017. Comfortable at fullback, centre and flyhalf, Lambie has played 17 times this season with two tries and 60 points to his name. Carter has had 16 starts, 56 points with the boot but yet to cross the tryline.
"When I arrived I hadn’t played in five or six months. I was really lucky that Racing slowly introduced me to game time," said Lambie, already a 56-cap Springbok veteran.
"I got to play fullback, some games at centre and some at flyhalf, so I have really had a good progression and been able to develop a good understanding of how Racing like to play."
With Racing in the European Cup final and already assured of a place in the Top 14 semifinals, Lambie is acutely aware that he could have easily ended up in England rather than France.
"We made the decision to have a change and get out of SA and come overseas. I had not really thought of France as an option, because I have a British passport and I always thought I would be going to England. Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
"But then my agent started to ask a few questions and then Racing was a possibility and it felt right from the beginning and it made me very excited."
As well as club success with Racing, Lambie is also desperate to play for the Springboks again in time for the World Cup in Japan in 2019.
Despite being an overseas player, he comfortably makes the 30-cap limit for selection.
"I would love to play for them again and go to the World Cup in 2019. I realised moving overseas was maybe going to make it more difficult to play for the Springboks even though there is the 30 Tests rule," said Lambie who would face competition for a starting place from Handré Pollard. "I know there’s the pressure to select locally based players. If I get selected that would be wonderful."