TOKYO, Nov 8 (Reuters) - All Blacks great Dan Carter believes the current New Zealand side are better than the World Cup-winning squads he was involved in and that their extraordinary speed has taken them to greater heights.
New Zealand, ranked number one in the world and fresh from claiming a third consecutive Rugby Championship title, are in Britain preparing for a November test against England on Saturday.
The 36-year-old Carter, a three-times World Player of the Year during an illustrious career at flyhalf for the All Blacks, believes the pace of New Zealand’s attack will prove decisive against their northern hemisphere rivals at Twickenham.
“The rugby world has seen what the All Blacks have done since the 2015 World Cup when we had a fantastic campaign in England, but I personally feel they have got stronger,” Carter said at a Mastercard event in Tokyo on Thursday.
“The speed that they are playing the game in the last couple of years has been a lot faster than other teams.
“But, we don’t often get the chance to come up against northern hemisphere teams a lot... so this is a great test for the All Blacks, just to see where they are at.
“I just think the speed at which the All Blacks play the game might just be a little bit too much for England to live with them for 80 minutes.”
New Zealand will also face Ireland and Italy this month as they ramp up preparations for the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup, which starts on Sept. 20, 2019.
When he quit internationals after being named Man of the Match in the 2015 World Cup final victory against Australia, there were concerns in New Zealand over who would replace the highest points scorer in test history.
However, Beauden Barrett has stepped seamlessly into his boots and has already matched Carter’s 24 test tries for the All Blacks thanks to his lightning speed.
“I think what differentiates him from other 10s around the world is his attacking mindset and just having, not only the skills, but more importantly the speed that he has to create these opportunities,” Carter added of his successor.
“The opposition can have all the momentum and putting all the pressure on the All Blacks, and then a moment of brilliance from a guy like Beaudy, who is fast enough to get through gaps that not many other players can, can just turn the game.”
Carter currently plays his club rugby in Japan for Kobe Steel at an exciting time for the sport in the country, 10 months ahead of hosting the World Cup.
“I can’t think of any better place to be playing or living than in Japan at the moment,” Carter, who was also in the 2011 World Cup-winning squad, added.
“The rugby is really great here. I am playing down in Kobe with lots of ex-team mates, so to be reunited with them has been great.
“I am really enjoying this new challenge.”
Having seen Japanese rugby up close, Carter believes the Brave Blossoms, who scored five tries against New Zealand in a 69-31 defeat last weekend, have a chance of progressing to the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.
“They have the team, the players, the coaching staff to cause these upsets,” Carter said.
“I would love to see them in the quarter-finals, the play-off stages, of the World Cup next year.” (Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by John O’Brien)