Carter: England are Cup threat
Stuart Lancaster has whipped England into genuine 2015 Rugby World Cup contenders, according to New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter.
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The 32-year-old believes England have a realistic chance of claiming Test victories in the June series in New Zealand - matches which will be key to both sides' preparation for next year's tournament.
England face the All Blacks in three Test clashes in Auckland, Dunedin and Hamilton, and Crusaders playmaker Carter believes the All Blacks have their work cut out to secure a series victory.
England's last win in New Zealand came in Wellington in June 2003 as Clive Woodward's side geared up for their Rugby World Cup victory in November that year.
Carter knows how much confidence Jonny Wilkinson and co took from that Test win in New Zealand 11 years ago, and admits Lancaster's generation have the ability to pull off a repeat.
"It's going to be a great Test series, they are building momentum and getting a strong squad together and building a lot of confidence," the 100-cap outside-half said.
"I'm sure they'll love to challenge themselves against the best around, they are right up there and they are looking forward to coming down and playing us.
"Having a win there would add a lot of confidence to the direction that they are moving, so there'll be a lot of hype and excitement that will make for a great Test series in June."
Carter capped a three-week world tour by booting rugby balls off a barge on the River Thames in the shadow of Tower Bridge.
The accomplished goal-kicker took to the river to help launch Mastercard's official Rugby World Cup partnership.
After a whistle-stop tour of the United States and Europe, Carter will now return to New Zealand to fight to return to full fitness in July after an Achilles problem.
Tipping England as one of title-holders New Zealand's main World Cup threats in 2015, Carter admitted he has relished a chance to refresh as much mentally as physically during his planned sabbatical.
New Zealand completed the 14-win perfect calendar year in 2013, and have lost just one Test in 35, to England at Twickenham in December 2012.
Carter still believes England have a chance of upsetting the odds in New Zealand this summer though, to boost their World Cup build-up.
"England will definitely be a threat this summer, no doubt," said Carter.
"And beyond that, in every World Cup I've been involved in, the host nation is always a team to look out for, and the way they are building, they will definitely be there and thereabouts.
"So when it comes to the knockout stages they are definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with.
"Even just having the World Cup in New Zealand, the mixture of having your home fans and familiar surroundings, you always want the World Cup in your home country.
"England are very lucky and fortunate to have that opportunity next year.
"It's exciting to think that the World Cup is starting to come into focus, it's been in the back of my mind now for a while. But things like goal-kicking on the River Thames make it dawn on you that it's not that far away.
"It's been great to have this break, but now I've got to go home and work extremely hard to make sure I'm part of the All Blacks team that defends the trophy here next year.
"I've been working hard on getting on top of a few injuries and niggles I've had for the last few years, and just freshening up mentally.
"It's quite a demanding job I've been doing for 11 years now, and that's been good, but every time I watch the boys play on TV I want to be out there.
"But I know I've got to hold back, and that will help in the long-run.
"The end goal is definitely worth it, to be here at the World Cup for the All Blacks."