All Blacks captain Kieran Read feels this year's 31-man World Cup squad is better than the one that won the tournament four years ago.
The All Blacks head to the World Cup as favourites and as two-time defending champions, after lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in 2011 and 2015.
While the 2015 team featured players like Richie McCaw, Daniel Carter, Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu, Read feels this years squad is "even better".
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"Definitely as good, even better I think," Read told The AM Show from Auckland Airport.
"You look at the experience and we don't have as much, but we have guys who have been around for years, gone to a World Cup and been through some pressure-cooker moments.
"There was some great players in 2011 and '15, but we have some excellent players and potential legends of the game in this team as well.
"The expectation is to go and win. There are a few nerves, which is natural, but we're all excited."
The All Blacks were preparing to depart Auckland Airport for Japan, before their opening match against the Springboks on September 21.
The last four tests between the two nations have been decided by two points or fewer and Read knows they will pose a huge threat at the 20-team tournament.
"South Africa have challenged us over the last two years, so for us to get through them in the pool stages will be massive.
"But the real threat is the team you play when it comes to the finals. Whoever we play will be our threat."
The World Cup will be Read's last tournament in the black jersey, after signing with Japanese side Toyota Verblitz for next season.
The All Blacks skipper knows his team will have to be at their best, if they want the three-peat.
"We're going to need the whole squad to perform to do well.
"In the past, there have been injuries in our squad, so it is about adapting and ensuring the guys who have to step in do the job. Everyone will be looking forward to putting their best foot forward."
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