When you are the best team in the world and reigning champions, you could be forgiven for having high expectations to retain your title.

But New Zealand’s points record holder has other ideas on who will win next year’s World Cup in England.

Dan Carter, whilst having spent the last five months off on a break from rugby, believes the home nation are a team constantly improving.

The 32-year-old fly-half told BBC Sport: “England will definitely be a threat.

“They are building momentum, getting a strong squad together and building confidence."

England last claimed the Webb Ellis Cup in 2003, when Jonny Wilkinson kicked a drop goal in extra time to beat Australia in the final at Sydney’s Telstra Stadium.

The competition hasn’t been on English soil since co-hosting the 1999 World Cup with Wales, Scotland, France and Ireland; the other countries from the Five Nations.

But like Australia were a force to be reckoned with in 2003, Carter thinks England will be contenders for the top prize.

“In every World Cup I’ve been involved in, the host nation is always a team to look out for – they will definitely be there or thereabouts,” said the All Black.

Carter missed his nation’s triumph in their home World Cup win in 2011 through injury.
But he will have the opportunity to watch England take on his New Zealand this year, when they travel to the southern hemisphere country for three Tests in June.

The odds are stacked against the visiting side, who last won in All Blacks’ backyard in 2003, as they prepared for that year’s World Cup victory.

England last beat New Zealand at Twickenham in December 2012, with the 38-21 win being hailed as one of the greatest victories in their history.

However, that is the New Zealand’s only defeat in the last 35 tests, which includes beating 2007 World Cup winners South Africa and bitter rivals Australia four times each in two years.
With Carter due to return from his sabbatical in July, he is expected to add to his 100 caps for the All Blacks in next year’s tournament.

The fly-half took the break to keep himself fit leading up to what could be his last chance to win a World Cup medal.

“I’ve been working hard on getting on top of a few injuries and niggles and just freshening up mentally,” said Carter.

He also said that he draws inspiration from Toulon’s Jonny Wilkinson, having improved his levels and raised his standards to become better than the former England fly-half.

“He’s the ultimate professional and probably works harder than any other player in the world,” said Carter. “If I was thinking about the best rugby players of all time, he would be up there.”

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