Pity the Welwitschias for at RWC 2007 anything in a Namibian jersey will be chewed-up and spat out. Namibia is a third-tier rugby nation and easily the worst team participating. IRB rankings place them 25 in the world – the lowest ranked team making the trip to France. Namibia's main problem is that they contest too few full internationals, and therefore lack experience.
Cash-strapped Georgia make the best use of their relationships with French clubs. The national team played Agen, Auch and Albigeois to warm up for the World Cup. The team were coaxed there by Frenchman Claude Saurel and two-thirds of the squad currently ply their trade in French club rugby. Saurel, a 54-year-old former Béziers flanker who was once Morocco's national coach was the key figure in getting Georgia to their first world cup in 2003.
The Pumas suffered several injuries in recent weeks, have lost three mid-field players and will struggle to emerge from Pool D simply because they don't have the necessary player strength and depth. An extremely abrasive side at home as demonstrated during the summer internationals, not many teams can travel to Buenos Aires in a hostile environment and win. However, Argentina, like many teams, are not the same force when they play away from home.
Bernard Laporte has taken away what people love about French rugby - flare and off-the-cuff play. France are now disciplined and structured in play. Home advantage is significant for France. Should they play well, fans will get behind them; perform poorly and Laporte and his players will feel the wrath of a demanding and fickle crowd who have previously turned nasty. This makes the opening game against Argentina all the more crucial for France.
Portugal is the first all-amateur team to qualify for the RWC since the dawn of the professional era in 1995 and the Wolves' trip to France will mark their RWC debut. Following a tempestuous qualification series, Portugal snatched the final entry berth with wins over the Czech Republic, Georgia, Ukraine and Uruguay. However, recent form will not suffice.This weak rugby nation's qualification to the RWC is a staggering accomplishment. It is testament to Portugal's recent successes in the European Nations Cup and IRB Nations Cup.
Japan arrives at France 2007 as the finest rugby talent that Asia has to offer. Unfortunately, Asia isn't offering much. A second-tier rugby nation at best, Japan falls between adequate and good, performing well against Asian and low class Pacific opponents but struggling against established rugby nations.
The Romanians can be expected to beat Portugal and will be attempting to win two matches for the first time in their fifth appearance at the World Cup. A heavy defeat to New Zealand is anticipated but they will hope to push both Italy and Scotland close with the aim of winning one of these matches.
Despite having only once qualified to the knockout stage (1991), this promises to be a good tournament for the maple leaf men. Currently ranked number 13 in the world rankings, and placed in a pool that presents hardship and opportunity in equal measures, Canada has potential to surprise. Canada is not known as a rugby powerhouse, but recent participation in international development series, such as the Churchill Cup and Super Cup has strengthened Canadian rugby with several Canadian internationals playing professional rugby in the Heineken Cup, Magners' League and French Top 14.
Italy is an unknown quantity. They performed well over three games earlier this year in their most succesful Six Nations tournament to date but suffered a heavy defeat against Ireland. Strong and competitive in the pack, Italy on their day have as good a tight five and loose forwards as any other team in the tournament.
Scotland will do well to reach the quarter final where they are likely to meet France, Ireland or Argentina. Like Wales, Scotland has a good first team, but not much in reserve. They try to play a fast open game, but some of the bigger teams will strangle Scotland of any ball.