IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 - Preview

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2015.09.16.

There is no bigger Tournament in this Sport, it's also the best because it only comes around every 4 years.Certain sides are going there to win it, while others are just happy to be a part of it. What was very evident from the previous Tournament was how well the minnows played in their first game, irrespective of the opposition, and how poorly  they performed after that.

Ever since the game has turned Pro, there has been a big exodus of players and coaches after the RWC (Rugby World Cup). This time it is no different. Also many players call it quits after the Tournament, one final push! If one looks at a rugby players' career and with the exception of tight-forwards, an individual is normally at his best between the ages of 23-27. A tight forward is normally from about 28-34.

Looking at History, one's draw can also play a huge role in achieving success. The one thing that I find strange is why England are co-hosting the RWC with Wales. They should have the capacity to host the entire Tournament. Many of the large football fields can double up as Rugby grounds for the Tournament.

I fully understand that the English Premiership Soccer Tournament is on the go too, however England knew many months ago that they were going to host the Tournament, and certain agreements and deals could of been made. It's ridiculous and unfair that every time when a European country hosts the tournament, that certain sides get to play some of their games at home.


POOL A

People always talk about a "Pool of Death", and certainly this time round,
it is Pool A. Despite the fact that one team's chances have declined due to
injuries, there are 3 teams who would look to qualify for the play-off's,
and only 2 can make it. So the big game of this Pool is when the Dragons and

Wallabies clash on the 10th of October at Twickeham. England I believe at
home should be too strong for the above mentioned sides. Fiji have a had a
good build-up, but one has to face the facts that they are still a
second-tier Rugby Nation. Uruguay is going to find the going very tough, and

I would be surprised if they don't concede 100 points on at last 2 occasions

during their campaign.

AUSTRALIA

Build-up: Got of to a winning start, edging South Africa in the final minute

in Brisbane. Despite receiving some yellow cards, collected a bonus point
win in Mendoza. In an unofficial final surprised everyone to beat the All
Blacks and became only the second side ever to wear the crown of the Rugby
Championship. However in New Zealand were crushed by Kiwis in the Bledisloe
Cup Test. Two weeks before the Tournament, field a second-string outfit
against the Eagles in Chicago and won 47-10.

Squad: I think that the happiest player in the squad is Michael Hooper. For
the past 2 seasons Hooper has been a lone warrior. He is constantly
conceding penalties for he was the only Australian player who was at the
point of the break-down, however now he has support from David Pocock, who
looks as good as ever. Amazingly Nic White has not been selected, Will Genia

is not the player he was 4 years ago, and Nic Phipps form at the highest
level has been very poor, added to that White provides another goal-kicking
option. A handful of players are leaving Australian rugby after the
Tournament. There are 15 survivors from the 2011 Tournament. Others to have
missed out is former skipper James Horwill who has a wealth of experience
yet has been overlooked. Another strange omission is that of Scott
Higginbotham. Surely Hooper and Pocock will start in the big games, but none

of them really provided much of a line-out option, Higginbotham would of
brought that to the side. Christian Leali'ifano's exclusion is hard to
understand, for according to Stephen Larkham he was Australia's best back in

Super Rugby, added to that he can play 10 and 12, and is a better
goal-kicker than Bernard Foley or Quade Cooper. The average age of the squad

is 27.

Leadership: A World Cup winner in 1999, has joined the coaching staff and is

none other than Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham. Michael Cheika has been less

than a year with the Wallabies, but is head coach. Stephen Moore is a
survivor from 2011 and wear's the arm-band, he also played in the 2007 RWC.

Win Ratio: 80.00%

Predication: Over the past couple of years England have proved to be too
strong at Twickenham. Yet recent wins have been recorded against Wales,
added to that, the game takes place in London and not in Cardiff, and
Australia has a much better record at Twickenham than the Welsh. They should

qualify for the Quarter-Finals, yet might have to be content with a second
place position in the Pool.

ENGLAND

Build-up: England spent 2 weeks in Denver as part of their pre-preparation.
Came second in the Six Nations. Won at home against the French, but a week
later in Paris though they were woeful, and despite losing by 5 points were
about 15 points adrift for most of the match. In a poor game against Ireland

came away with a win 21-13.

Squad:  Manu Tuilagi will not be available for selection due to assaulting a

female police officer. Dylan Hartley has been axed altogether due to his
suspension for foul play. Danny Cipriani was a possible, but never really
was given enough chance to stake a claim. Steffon Armitage is considered to
be England's best flank forward, yet he too will miss out. Tom Croft was
sure to be there, yet he suffered an injury in March already which nullified

his chances. There are only 7 survivors from England's 2011 campaign. There
are also 7 British & Irish Lions in the squad. The average age is 26.

Leadership: Stuart Lancaster has been in charge since 2012, and despite
beating strong sides haven't won a Six Nations Tournament. His captain ever
since he took over has been Chris Robshaw.

Win Ratio: 75.00%

Predication: England are the Official Hosts, and the hosts have always done
well in the Tournament. They will have to play very well against Australia
and Wales, yet with a tidal wave of support, they should have enough. By
winning the Pool they will have a pretty easy quarter-final. They are
certainly one of the genuine favorites.

FIJI

Build-up: Won the IRB World Series Sevens again. Despite leading 26-10 at
one stage against the Maoris, bended the knee 26-27. In the Pacific Nations
Cup made a clean sweep, not a losing a game and beating Samoa 39-29 in the
Final in Vancouver. Were simply far too good for Canada, winning 47-18 in
London.

Squad: Alipate Ratini can not be selected due to an ruptured Achilles
Tendon. Napolioni Nalaga is a big loss to the Fijian cause as an injury in
the Pacific Nations Cup has ruled him out. Much of the squad play their club

rugby in France, only 2 players play representative rugby in Fiji. There are

14 survivors from 2011. The average age of the Flying Fijians is 27.

Leadership: Frans Ludeke who coached the Bulls in Super Rugby is a new
assistant coach and will concentrate on the forwards. John McKee is the head

coach, his was involved with Tonga as a technical advisor in the previous
Tournament. His skipper is Akapusi Qera who played in 2007 and 2011 RWC.

Win Ratio: 37.50%

Predication: Due to playing in the Tournament opener, Fiji was the first
team to report to their base camp. Fiji's big game is on the 5th of October
against Uruguay. Perhaps if one of the more established sides field a
dirt-track side, Fiji could be a handful. Yet if it happens the bench is
sure to field the big guns to steer clear danger if needed.

URUGUAY

Build-up: Uruguay was the last team to qualify for the 2015 RWC. They have
lost earlier this year to Los Pumas and the Lelos. They did however win a
game against an Argentinean XV 30-26 in Montevideo. On a tour of Japan they
lost both Tests by large margins. Finished off with a win against the Basque

Selection 41-19 in Spain.

Squad: Since Uruguay last participated in the RWC as far back as 2003, there

are no player survivors from their previous campaign. Only 5 players play
their club rugby outside of Uruguay, as the sport there is as amateur as it
gets. The average age of the squad is 26.

Leadership: Coach Pablo Lemoine played for Uruguay on the only 2 occasions
that they participated in the RWC (1999 & 2003). Los Teros skipper is
Santiago Vilseca.

Win Ratio: 28.57%

Predication: They will have the bigger pack against Fiji, yet might lack the

skills to beat them. Unfortunately are sure to be cannon fodder for the
other sides in their Pool.

WALES

Build-up: Underwent training camps in Qatar, Poland and Switzerland. Did
okay in the Six Nations as they were the only side to beat eventual
champions Ireland. Lost hugely to Ireland with a very weak outfit which
included a couple of new caps in their first RWC warm-up. Yet 2 weeks later
in Dublin rolled out all the Big Guns and won 16-10. Won their final game
against Italy, but at a great cost.

Squad: One of the big problems that Wales has is a lack of depth. They have
lost one of their big players in Jonathan Davies at centre. I believe that a

fit Jamie Roberts and Davies is the best center pair in Europe. Rhodri Jones

is another player who will not participate in the Welsh campaign due to a
ruptured Pectoral Muscle injury. A notable omission is that of Richard
Hibbard. Samson Lee at one stage was a 50-50 possible selection as had to
undergo  Achilles Surgery, yet he is in the squad. As many as 22 of the
squad plays their club Rugby in Wales. The biggest loss is that of Leigh
Halfpenny, a player who was carrying an injury into the Italian game, and
suffered another one to ultimately end his RWC aspirations. There are 15
survivors from their 2011 campaign. There are also 7 of them who has played
for the British & Irish Lions, the average age is 26.

Leadership: It's the exact same staff as in the previous Tournament with
Warren Gatland (head coach) being supported by Rob Howley and Shaun Edwards.

The skipper is also unchanged as British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton

will be the leader on the field.

Win Ratio: 58.06%

Predication: Gatland was adamant after the Six Nations Tournament that his
Welsh team can win the World Cup. However with the loss of Halfpenny I
believe that Wales actually going all the way has diminished with 25-30%.
Despite the fact that Halfpenny is a superb player, he is Wales' highest
points accumulator. They have a very tough outing against Australia on the
10th of October. While England should be too strong on the 26th of
September.

POOL B

If oiled enough, South Africa should win their pool pretty comfortably. So
with one position still open it comes down to when Scotland and Samoa meet
in Newcastle on the 10th of October, on current from the Scots have to be
the favorites. The big game for Japan and the United States is when they
meet each other.

JAPAN

Build-up: Although they lost most games narrowly in the Pacific Nations Cup,

they did lose and only won a single fixture. Against a scratch World XV
side, were well beaten in Tokyo. The Brave Blossoms were far too strong for
Uruguay and won the series 2-0. Scrapped through against Georgia, which
really was a Championship of Asia clash (13-10).

Squad: A number of players in the squad are not Japanese born. There are 10
survivors from 2011. The average age is 29.

Leadership: The Tournament is nothing new to coach Eddie Jones as he coached

Australia in the 2003 Tournament and was part of South Africa's support
staff in 2007. The Japs skipper is back-rower Michael Leitch.

Win Ratio: 4.17%

Predication: They narrowly lost to the United States earlier this year, and
it really should be the only game that they can look towards realistically
winning.

SAMOA

Build-up: Lost in Apia in a ground breaking game against the All Blacks
16-25. In the Pacific Nations Cup they didn't lose a game in the round-robin

section, but lost the Final against near neighbors Fiji. They were extremely

poor against the Barbarians, playing largely with 14 men and at times 13,
yet only lost by 3 points. They did beat London Wasps via a last minute try
(25-19).

Squad: Sinoti Sinoti was one of the best players in the 2014/2015
Premiership season, but felt that he would not make it, and was right. Only
3 players in the squad play their Club Rugby in Samoa, the rest are all
based in Europe. There are 13 survivors from 2011, the average age is 29.

Leadership: Stephen Berham has had success with the Samoan 7-a-side team.
With him there Samoa won 3 Titles. His been head coach of standard form side

since 2009. Ofisa Treviranus is the skipper, he is one the survivors from
2011.

Win Ratio: 45.83%

Predication: Samoa's big game is on the 10th of October when they lock horns

with Scotland, as whoever wins that game will probably come second in their
Pool.

SCOTLAND

Build-up: Got wooden spooned in the Six Nations. Yet gave a good account of
themselves against Ireland in Dublin going down 22-28 in their first RWC
warm-up. Finally recorded a win in Italy, downing the Italians by only 2
points. Were brilliant a week later at home against the Italians winning
48-7. Weren't too bad in Paris either, despite losing, really should of won
the game.

Squad: Jim Hamilton has not been selected and has subsequently retired. A
very big surprise was the non selection of Blair Cowan. Perhaps Scotland's
most penetrative player Alex Dunbar, had to undergo surgery and as a
consequence could not be selected. There are only 5 survivors from 2011.
Only 7 players have represented the Lions before. The average age is 27

Leadership: Vern Cotter has done wonders with the Scots. Despite the fact
they aren't winning they just play such a better brand of Rugby, and if they

continue on this course wins will come. They really need it to come on the
10th of October. The Scots skipper is scrumhalf Greg Laidlaw.

Win Ratio: 57.58%

Predication: Due to the rugby they are playing they might just have enough
to beat Samoa and qualify for the Quarters. With the exception of South
Africa, they should win all their other Pool games.

SOUTH AFRICA

Build-up: Won handsomely against a World XV, yet followed that up with being

clean-swept in the Rugby Championship. Wouldn't of been that disappointed
losing against the sides from "down-under", because they could of won both
fixtures and were very much in those games. Yet against Argentina at home
they were never in the game, and for the first time ever lost to the Pumas.
Yet a week later in the Argentinean capital bounced back to at least win one

Test before their Tournament commences.

Squad: I believe that Heyneke Meyer has made a huge mistake in selecting
basically the same side in the opening 4 games the Boks played this year. It

was only in Buenos Aires that he made changes to his starting line-up. How
oiled are his injured players returning to squad going to be?  There are as
many as 7 players who play their domestic rugby abroad. There are 14
survivors from 2011, and 4 survivors from the 2007 RWC Final. Yet there are
a host of players who have played very little Rugby this season (Duane
Vermeulen, Fourie du Preez, Willem Alberts, Jean de Villiers....just to name

a few). Added to this to select a player like Rudy Paige who hasn't even
represented the side on the bench, is hard to understand. Two flankers,
Heinrich Brussow and Marcel Coetzee have both missed out despite having very

good Super Rugby and Rugby Championship performances. The average age is 28.

Leadership: Meyer was part of South Africa's support staff in the 1999 RWC.
Skipper Jean de Villiers is playing in his 3rd RWC

Win Ratio: 86.21%

Predication: They are in a very easily pool, and should win all their games,

possibly even all of them with Bonus Points. They are genuine contenders, it

just depends on how battle ready some of the players are. Added to this they

have had to encounter a great deal of off-the-field pressures from certain
political sectors who aren't pleased with the make-up of the side due to
wanting more non-white players in the squad, as opposed to the best players.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Build-up: Shocked everyone in the Rugby World by winning the Edinburgh
Sevens. Yet this isn't sevens and in the traditional format didn't do too
well in the Pacific Nations Cup winning only 2 out of their 4 games. Went to

Ottawa and beat Canada 41-23. Lost narrowly to Harlequins at PPL Park.
Didn't lose that narrowly to the Wallabies (10-47) in Chicago.

Squad:  Todd Clever is one of the best players America has ever produced,
yet he won't being going to a 3rd World Cup due to a multiple of conduct
violations. Scott LaValla who had made the squad, injured himself in one
America's hit out's and his RWC aspirations are over. There are 10
survivors, while the average age is 27.

Leadership: Mike Tolkin was the American defensive coach in the 2011 RWC. He

became head coach the following year. Chris Wyles a survivor from 2011 and
the Eagles most capped ever fullback skippers the side.

Win Ratio: 14.29%

Predication: Sure to have their big guns in against Japan on the 3rd of
October. They did beat them earlier this year at home, and it will be
interesting to see how it goes at a neutral venue.

POOL C

New Zealand have never not won their Pool, they are so strong that they
could enter a Super Rugby side, and still win their Pool. Argentina are also

a good bet for a knock-out phase place. Perhaps the best game will be when
Tonga play the Pumas on the 4th of October. Sides like Georgia and Namibia
are both there just to make the numbers.

ARGENTINA

Build-up: Started with wins against Uruguay and Paraguay. Were well beaten
by the All Blacks and Wallabies in the Rugby Championship, yet did record a
famous win against the Springboks in South Africa. Yet disappointed a week
later by losing to the Africans at home. Played against the Leicester Tigers

and won 55-34 in a game which totaled 13 tries.

Squad: Juan Figallo will miss the Tournament after suffering a knee injury
which needed surgery. Ramiro Herrera was another prop who had to undergo an
operation in the Rugby Championship, yet he will go the the RWC. Much of the

squad used to play their Club Rugby in Europe, most notably in France. Yet
with an Argentine side competing in next years Super Rugby Tournament, much
of the squad has now joined that Franchise, so now only 7 players are still
plying their trade abroad. Their are only 10 survivors from 2011 RWC, 5
players are playing in their 3rd RWC. The average age of Los Pumas squad is
26.

Leadership: Agustin Creevy did play in the previous Tournament and will lead

the side. Coach David Hourcade was an assistant of Portugal's only RWC
appearance in 2003, his also a coach who has come through the grades i.e has

coached the Juniors and the 7's national side .

Win Ratio: 50.00%

Predication: The Pumas should pick the fruits of now playing in the Rugby
Championship. Playing at that level does wonders and none of the minnows in
the pool should upset them. They will have to be content with second pace
though, for they are in the same pool as the All Blacks.

GEORGIA

Build-up:  Georgia have won the last 8 European Nations Cup trophies. They
also picked up a win against Uruguay. Yet at Kingston Park, came crashing
down to Newcastle losing 27-7. Lost another game in England going down to
Canada by a point. The Lelos also lost their final RWC warm-up against
Japan.

Squad: Just short of 2/3's of the squad play their club rugby outside of
Georgia. There are 13 survivors from the 2011 squad. The average age is 26.

Leadership: Milton Haig is another New Zealander as a RWC coach. He has
coached the Maoris and New Zealand's u/21 sides already. He also has ITM Cup

and Super Rugby coaching experience. Haig has been coach of the Lelos since
2011. Mamuka Gorgodze, the back-rower leads the Lelos.

Win Ratio: 25.00%

Predication: This side improves every World Cup. The All Blacks is too tall
an order and the Pumas should be as well, yet they will fancy their chances
against Namibia and Tonga.

NAMIBIA

Build-up: Lost hugely to Romania and suffered a defeat to Spain. Yet did win

a Test Series against Russia. Also recorded a massive win over Zimbabwe.

Squad: There are 19 players who play their club Rugby outside of Namibia.
Most of them play in South Africa. There are 13 survivors from 2011. The
average age of the team is 27.

Leadership: Danie Vermeulen resigned just 3 months before the Tournament
commenced due to wanting to employ a local back-line coach. That position
has gone to Pieter Rossouw, former back-line coach of the Bulls. Rossouw
himself played for South Africa in the 1999 RWC. Technical advisor Phil
Davies (who played for Wales in the Inaugural RWC and in 1991), is now the
head coach. Jacques Burger who plays for Saracens once again wears the
arm-band, as he did in 2011.

Win Ratio: 0.00%

Predication: Every RWC that Namibia have played in, they have been the
weakest team in the entire Tournament. They will probably be that again.

NEW ZEALAND

Build-up: It was an all New Zealand Super Rugby Final and their boys won the

Junior RWC too. They beat Samoa, and in the Rugby Championship came second
to Australia. Wins were recorded against Argentina and South Africa, yet
unexpectedly lost to Australia 19-27. Coach Steve Hansen did say that he
would play his strongest possible side in New Zealand against Australia for
the Bledisloe Cup. Is was very evident how much better their full-strength
side is and they crushed the Wallabies 41-13.

Squad: Aaron Cruden missed the All Blacks Tour last season due to not the
boarding the plane. This time round he will again miss the plane, but that
due to a ACL injury. Patrick Tuipulotu has opted for surgery to his hip and
will also miss the cut as his season is over. Waisake Naholo who broke his
leg has made an amazing recovery largely due to some special healing
treatment in Fiji, and has made the cut. Players like Corey Jane and Israel
Dagg who were stars for 4 years ago, has missed out though. Charles Piutau
is perhaps the unluckiest player in the World not going to the RWC, one
wonders how much of an impact his move to Ulster had to play. There are 14
players who were part of New Zealand's winning squad in 2011 and part of the

mix in 2015. The Blacks average age is 29.

Leadership: Richie McCaw is now playing in his 4th World Cup. The Tournament

is not completely new to Hansen. He was part of Sir Graham Henry's World Cup

winning staff in 2011 and coached Wales in the 2003 RWC.

Win Ratio: 85.71%

Predication: There are only 4 sides I believe that can beat the All Blacks
(Australia, England, Ireland and South Africa). Over the past 4 years the
Kiwis have only lost 3 games. They are the reigning World Champions but have

never won the Tournament outside of Australasia. If they don't retain their
title it will a case of the All Blacks losing it, as opposed to someone else

winning it. I felt that in the 2003 RWC, England deserved to win the Trophy,

for to me between 2000-2003 they were the best in the World. Despite
normally beating Tri-Nation opposition, is was the always case of our
players are tired (November), or our boys are still finding each other
(June). Southern Hemisphere sides would not accept that this side was very
good, and better than what they were. So I knew that if they won in 2003 in
Australia, know one could argue then. It's the same case 12 years
later..........the Kiwis deserve to retain their title..........however life

is unfair.

TONGA

Build-up: Only lost a single fixture in the Pacific Nations Cup. Collected a

healthy win against Nottingham 69-14. Finished off with a win in Bucharest
against Romania 21-16.

Squad: Only a single player plays his club Rugby in Tonga, the rest are
scattered all over the globe. There are 10 survivors from the 2011
Tournament. The average age is that of 29.

Leadership: Coach Mana Otai was captain of the Tongan side in 1995 RWC. Nili

Latu played in 2007 RWC, yet missed the boat in 2011. Latu returns now to
captain the side

Win Ratio: 28.57%

Predication: They caused the biggest upset of the 2011 RWC by beating
France. Yet lighting doesn't strike twice for a side like the Ikale Tahi. To

qualify for the following round they will have to beat Argentina, and to do
this they will have to keep the game very loose, something Argentina simply
don't do.

POOL D

At first one would immediately say that Ireland should coast in this Pool,
yet they have a had a pretty poor build-up. However I still feel that the
big game, and perhaps the first big game of the Tournament will be when
France play Italy on the 19th of September. So I guess France vs Ireland
could also be a big one to determine who wins the pool. As for the minnows,
their World Cup Final is when they play one another.

CANADA

Build-up: The Canucks lost all their Pacific Nations Cup matches. They also
lost in their capital against their American neighbors. However they did
pick up a win against the Glasgow Warriors 19-12 and in Esher beat Georgia
16-15. Yet against stronger opposition in the form of Fiji, lost 18-47.

Squad: Most of the squad actually play their Club Rugby in Canada. However
the 13 that don't are found largely in England and Wales. There are 14
survivors from 2011, while the average age is 28.

Leadership: Coach Kieran Crowley is a New Zealander. He participated in the
1987 and 1991 All Black side as the fullback understudy. Crowley has coached

Taranaki and the New Zealand u/21 side in his career. Tyler Ardon who only
has 21 caps to his name, has been selected as skipper.

Win Ratio: 28.00%

Predication: I believe their only chance of a win is on the 6th of October
against Romania

FRANCE

Build-up: From the previous RWC, France have not end in the top 3 of any Six

Nations Tournament. Produced perhaps their best display under Coach Philippe

Saint-André by dominating England and won the game 25-20, this after losing
a week before against the same opposition 14-19 in London. Ended their
preparation against the Scots winning 19-16. Yet in truth they were very
lucky in that fixture and really produced in the game what they normally
have under Saint-Andre, which was another case of dross.

Squad: Players like Xavier Chiocci and Sebastein Vahamahina have missed the
boat. Francois Trinh-Duc is arguably France's best fly half, yet he too has
been cut. Jules Plisson also missed out due to a dislocated shoulder
suffered in the Top 14.  France have only 7 survivors who made the cut in
2011.The average age of Les Bleus is 29.

Leadership: Coach Philippe Saint-André played in the 1991 RWC and captained
the national side in the 1995 RWC. Thierry Dusautoir who captained France
even before the 2011 Tournament, still wears the arm-band.

Win Ratio: 69.77%

Predication: France have had it very hard over the last 4 years. Yet if one
looks at the 1999 and 2011 RWC's they had very poor build-up's too and made
the Final. So who knows, but under these other coaches they did record some
good wins, under Saint-Andre only  2 wins over Australia and a win against
England, nothing to speak of against the other Big Boys.

IRELAND

Build-up: Ireland have managed to win the last 2 Six Nations Championships,
however despite this they failed to complete the Grand Slam or win the
Triple Crown. Kicked off their RWC warm-ups in Cardiff against a
ridiculously weak Welsh side winning 35-21. Followed that up by a struggling

win at home against the Scots 28-22. Struggled even more the following week
against Wales in Dublin, and lost 10-16. Finished off with a defeat at
Twickenham.

Squad: The one area were I believe Ireland are a little vulnerable is in the

mid-field. Naturally there is no more Brian O'Driscoll, but his long-time
standing partner Gordon D'Arcy has not been selected. Another strange
decision was to omit Andrew Trimble as his Ireland's player of the year in
2014. Cian Healy was under an injury cloud but has recovered in time. There
are 13 survivors and 12 British & Irish Lions in the squad. The average age
is that of 28.

Leadership: Former British & Irish Lions captain Paul O'Connell will lead
the side. Coach Joe Schmidt is the most successful Irish Coach ratio wise,
and has made this side a genuine contender.

Win Ratio: 56.67%

Predication: No Irish side has ever been better prepared for a RWC, and in
truth they have never been a genuine contender, until now. This team is
almost unbeatable in Dublin, yet their games aren't in Ireland. As mentioned

above they didn't do the clean sweep in the Six Nations. In 2014 they lost
to England in London and this year to Wales in Cardiff.

ITALY

Build-up: Avoided the Wooden Spoon in the Six Nations, something they have
only avoided on 6 occasion in 15 Tournaments. Lost a game riddled with
errors against the Scots 12-14. Were even worse off a week later in
Edinburgh losing 7-48. Were a little better against the Welsh in Cardiff,
yet still lost 19-23.

Squad: Italy's number one fly half choice Kelly Haimona's broken arm hasn't
healed as speedily as expected, and due to this was not eligible for
selection. Marco Bortolami and Robert Barbieri haven't made the squad. Mauro

Bergamasco is now going to play in his 5th RWC. There are 11 survivors from
2011. There are 12 players who play their Club Rugby outside of Italy and
the average age is of the squad is 28.

Leadership: Jacques Brunel hasn't been able to do what a coach like Pierre
Berbezier did for Italian rugby. Under his tenor-ship Italy have only won 10

out of 39 games. Sergio Parisse once again skippers the side.

Win Ratio: 32.00%

Predication: In 2011 they had no problem against the minnows, and shouldn't
falter here again. They will be hoping that they catch France on an off-day.

However earlier this year in Rome, France beat the Azzurri 29-0.

ROMANIA

Build-up: Romania once again came second in the European Nations Cup. They
also recorded a very healthy win over Namibia. At Headingly in their first
Warm-up match they were held to a draw by Yorkshire Carnegie. Edinburgh were

simply just too strong for the Oaks as they lost 16-31, as was Tonga at
home, Romania going down 16-21.

Squad: This squad either plays their club Rugby in Romania or France, there
are 10 players who play their Club Rugby outside of Romania. There are 14
survivors from 2011, the average age of the side is 29.

Leadership: Lynn Howells was part of the Welsh coaching staff in the 1999
RWC. His been national coach since 2012. The captain is Mihai Macovei.

Win Ratio: 20.83%

Predication: Surely their game against Canada is their big one. The other
sides in the pool are just too strong.

Source: IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 - Preview | Newsletter | Duncan Damon