Carter backs 'hurt' All Blacks to triumph in 'closest' World Cup

Former All Blacks' player Dan Carter (Kazuhiro NOGI)
Former All Blacks' player Dan Carter (Kazuhiro NOGI)

New Zealand great Dan Carter believes the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which gets underway on Friday, will be the "closest" ever but says his compatriots will use the "hurt" of the 2019 event to inspire them to victory.

Despite the All Blacks' suffering a record defeat in a humbling 35-7 loss to reigning champions South Africa last month, the former fly-half and World Cup winner in 2011 and 2015 is tipping his nation to claim a fourth global crown.

"I'm confident they can bounce back and go all the way but it's going to be the closest Rugby World Cup of all time with the likes of Ireland, South Africa and France all playing fantastic rugby," Carter told AFP on Thursday.

"There are probably 12 teams in this competition that can easily beat those four teams as well," he added.

Carter is particularly looking forward to Friday's opening match in which his country will take on hosts France.

"There's something about the French and the All Blacks and the history when it comes to the Rugby World Cups," said Carter, who played against France in four consecutive tournaments from 2003 to 2015.

"It goes right back to the inaugural World Cup in 1987 when they played each other in the final, and we know what happened in 1999 as well when a heroic performance by the French knocked the All Blacks out in the semi-finals."

Carter suffered the heartache of losing to France in the 2007 quarter-finals before gaining revenge in the next two tournaments when New Zealand went on to lift the title.

A three-time Super Rugby winner with the Crusaders in his homeland, Carter spent two spells playing in France, winning the Top 14 with Perpignan in 2009, and then again with Racing 92 in 2016.

The 41-year-old is hoping to see the epic France-New Zealand rivalry make new history.

"I would love the All Blacks and the French to play each other in the opening game and then go their separate ways and meet again in the final," he said.

"I can't go past the All Blacks (to win). I think they've got a lot of hurt from 2019, they will really add this as motivation," he added as he reflected on their third-place finish in Japan four years ago.

But Carter admitted that if anyone could knock over his countrymen, it would be the hosts, who are the reigning under-20 world champions and in La Rochelle have the European club champions too.

"There's something really special about rugby in France at the moment, everything seems to be aligned," said Carter who was speaking at a publicity event for Mastercard at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.