Steve Hansen (Gallo Images)
Cardiff - If the 2015 Rugby World Cup winners come from the tough Pool A they would be true champions given their tough draw, according to New Zealand coach Steve Hansen.
Hosts England were drawn alongside fellow top-six teams Australia and Wales in Pool A, along with combative Fiji and minnows Uruguay.
England need to beat the Wallabies in the latest "Pool of Death" match on Saturday to remain in the tournament.
"It's an advantage and disadvantage to be in their pool," Hansen said of England.
"They're fighting for their lives at the moment.
"If they win today, they'll possibly end up the top qualifier."
While Hansen has been able to test a raft of differing scenarios in his team's Pool C matches, the latest on Friday seeing the All Blacks beating Georgia 43-10, there has been no such grace for Australia, England and Wales.
"England are having to use everything they've got, Wales are having to use everything they've got," he said.
"The Aussies have played the two easier games and now have the two big ones to finish with, so there's still a lot of things to happen in that pool."
After having to negotiate a mine-laden pool, then come the knock-out phases, with the winners and runners-up progressing to quarter-finals against the two top teams in South Africa's Pool B.
"They've got to come in and play some tough rugby again so it doesn't ease up for them," Hansen said.
"My understanding of Test rugby is that it's really hard to keep doing that.
"If someone out of that pool goes all the way and wins, they are the true world champions because they'll have played the hardest opposition of anybody in the tournament.
"I'm not saying it's not possible but it'll be difficult and they'll be a tired side by the time they come the end of it."
New Zealand have faced accusations that they might be underprepared in the quarter finals as they have had such an easy group. They beat Rugby Championship rivals Argentina 26-16 in their first match before Namibia (58-14) and Georgia. The All Blacks wrap up pool play against Tonga next weekend in Newcastle.
"Conversely, everyone's telling us we've got an easy pool," lamented Hansen.
"We've had three games (with three goals): one was to qualify, two was to be the number one qualifier and three was to build parts of our game that we know we're going to need later on in this competition if we're going to survive in it."