Special Features

Pool B - Figi

Coached by Ilivasi Tabua, who played for Australia at RWC 1995 and his native Fiji four years later, the islanders go into this World Cup seeking a first quarter final appearance since 1987 without their star player, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, who has been excluded from the squad as a result of a three-month ban imposed after he tested positive for cannabis.  As anyone who has seen him perform with ball in hand can confirm, notably during a two try performance versus Scotland during RWC 2003 when a late Tom Smith try denied Fiji a quarter final appearance, the controversial winger is a loss not

Pool C - New Zealand

The 2007 World Cup is New Zealand's tournament to lose. They enter as hot favourites and have been the form team at previous finals, but have yet failed to win a title since 1987. The main problem is the pressure exerted by an expectant media and public at home. Few teams have the ability to beat New Zealand, but they can crumble under pressure and beat themselves.

Pool B - Wales

Even though Wales has the ability to spring a surprise any team, they could be the disappointment of this tournament. They were walloped by England and won a morale boosting victory over Argentina in the August tests, but this wasn't a particularly strong performance.

Pool B - Australia

Australia are always an unknown quantity at the World Cup. They are only team to have won a final twice, they always do well at finals and yet their performances immediately prior to the tournament are generally shaky. There is some domestic controversy surrounding the selection of George Gregan and other ageing players, but they can perform at the top level for any one off game.

Pool A - Tonga

Tonga head coach Quddus Fielea had unsuccessfully attempted to postpone naming his squad until high court proceedings between members of the Tonga rugby union had been completed. The court action was as a result of a split in the union that emerged earlier this year when three board members resigned amid accusations that the remaining four board members had been meeting in secret and making unauthorised decisions.

Pool A - United States

In five tournaments, the Eagles won just two games, a trend of rugby mediocrity that looks set to continue. A second-tier team, the Eagles have two fundamental flaws; they lack a solid professional core, and they are dogged by an inability to compete against stronger rugby nations. Most of the Eagles squad play in the US semi-professional Super League. This is not an elite league, and the exclusion of some of the country's strongest rugby clubs questions the league's premier division status. Thus, the majority of the Eagles do not compete against quality opposition on a regular basis.

Pool A - Samoa

If ferocious tackling, passion and commitment won world cups, Manu Samoa (the Samoan Warriors) would have won it by now. Sadly, despite reaching the quarter finals in 1991 and 1995, they have struggled to perform in the professional era due to financial difficulties, locality and player depth.

Pool A - South Africa

Similar to England, South Africa have reverted to their most suited composition – a large forward pack with a limited back line. South Africa have failed to ever produce creative mid-field players and rely instead upon strong direct players who agressively attack the gain line. But as recently proved, even in the pre-World Cup game against Connaught, removing that element from their game plan limits the Springboks.

Pool A - England

Despite heavy criticism at home, England coach Brian Ashton has reverted to what won England the World cup in 2003 - a huge pack, Jonny Wilkinson at out-half and not much else. Brian Ashton's appointment as coach last year has not helped England's preparation – he was still tinkering with their composition a few weeks before the World Cup, two years too late. 

Background to the Rugby World Cup

Several proposals for a first ever world cup in rugby were made to the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But not until 1985 when New Zealand and Australia proposed to co-host an inaugural tournament was the concept of a World Cup seriously considered. Individual applications from both countries had been turned down in 1984, so they jointly conducted a feasibility study which was presented to a meeting of IRFB member unions in Paris in March 1985.