Dan Carter, the former All Blacks No10 who had a love-hate relationship with Rugby World Cups including suffering the existential pain of defeats in 2003 and 2007, the physical pain of being invalided out of the tournament in 2011 and then the relief and joy of 2015, believes this year's edition will be the most competitive yet.
The 36-year-old's international playing days finished on that glorious late afternoon at Twickenham four years ago after he played a huge part in his side retaining the William Webb Ellis trophy with a win over Australia (as he did a week earlier with a masterclass performance in the tight semifinal victory over South Africa), so he can look forward to this year's World Cup in Japan without the butterflies which preceded that last one.
Talking to the Herald in his position as an ambassador for the Heineken Urban Polo series, Carter is enjoying a long break in New Zealand after leading his Japanese club Kobe to victory in his first season and said the nation which triumphed in the World Cup final in Tokyo in early November would be the one which best coped with adversity – something else he knows a bit about.
"There's no magic recipe," Carter said. "You have to almost expect the unexpected because you never play seven games in a row away from home in any other competition. All the other teams are at their best so it can be quite different to a one-off test or a three-test series.
"Things are going to happen; your best players could get injured, some guys' form [could slip]. It's the team that adapts and deals with that situation the best which will be the one standing at the end."
Carter, beset by Achilles, knee and shoulder injuries and virtually everything else in between during his career which included 103 tests, said his body was in good physical shape after the move from French club rugby to the less demanding Japanese competition, and is looking forward to what could be his final season of professional rugby when he eventually returns.
He was an interested viewer of the All Blacks' performances last year, including the challenging November tour when Steve Hansen's men narrowly beat England before losing to Ireland, but insisted his former team were in a good position to go for their third consecutive World Cup triumph.
"They did [have a tough time last year] but I still think they're quite a young side," he said. "They still have some experienced players there. A lot of the emphasis has been on this year; a few guys have been rested and few key guys have been injured.
"They've managed the players reasonably well and have given others those opportunities that might be needed come World Cup time. They would probably have liked to have been more successful but they only lost a couple of games - that's still pretty successful in terms of international teams.
"The competition is getting closer and they are all much improved teams that they're up against. South Africa, England, Ireland, Australia will be good again. Wales are looking good. It's going to be a competitive World Cup and I like the way they [All Blacks] are managing players to make sure they're peaking at the right time.
"They're trying some new things and will settle on the style of play they think will win the World Cup. The coaching group are pretty smart and talented and will make sure the players don't get ahead of themselves."
And while the All Blacks struggled at times to cope with rush defences last year, Carter said it was a matter of Beauden Barrett or Richie Mo'unga or whoever is selected in the No10 jersey to look for different opportunities to attack.
"Defences are obviously coming up a lot more. You have to be more strategic. You can't defend everywhere on the field… you just need to target the best place to attack and you can sometimes influence a defence through your play as a No10. That's the way the game is going. The No10 has to be very strategic and needs to challenge the defence.
"If he's just catching and passing the whole time it's easy for the defence to come up. You need all the skills and it is challenging playing against a rush defence but it also provides opportunity. I always got excited playing defences like that because I knew there was space in different parts of the field. Once you attack that you can make defences second-guess themselves. That's where you get real satisfaction as a No10."
•The Heineken Urban Polo series will be held in Singapore on February 23, Hagley Park in Christchurch on March 2, and Ellerslie Racecourse in Auckland on March 16.