Rugby World Cup Pool C Preview

Defending champions New Zealand headline Rugby World Cup Pool C in England.  The All Blacks are expected to win the group with reasonable ease but perhaps the greatest concern for Steve Hansen’s men will be keeping his players fit and fresh while avoiding injuries.

NEW ZEALAND

The Kiwis are the overwhelming favourites not only for this group, but the tournament as a whole.  No team has ever won back-to-back World Cup titles but the New Zealanders’ form since winning the Webb Ellis Cup for the second time, demands their tag as favourites.  Hansen’s lot has lost just three times over the last three seasons.  England, South Africa and Australia are the only sides to have put one over the men from the land of the long white cloud with just one win each.

Prediction: Winners

ARGENTINA

Los Pumas impressed at the 2007 World Cup when they finished third.  The Argentines have also improved steadily since the Tri-Nations expanded but while they are heavily favoured to progress to the quarter-finals, it is almost certainly as group runners-up.  The South Americans have never beaten New Zealand but will fancy a shot at a semi-final spot as Ireland or France are likely to be their quarter-final opponents.

Prediction: Quarter-finalists

GEORGIA

This is a side on the rise in world rugby but they have not improved sufficiently to trouble the big boys just yet.  Georgia will start as favourites against Namibia but will be the slight underdogs against Tonga.  Still, the Georgians will back themselves to pull off a win and finish third in this group.

Prediction: Group stage exit

NAMIBIA

The Namibians have never won a match at the Rugby World Cup having been ever-presents since 1999.  The Welwitschias will play with heart and determination and even boast a few players in the professional ranks in Europe these days, as well as South Africa.  Despite these strides the southern Africans are odds-on to lose all their group fixtures.

Prediction: Group stage exit

TONGA

Tonga was desperately unlucky in 2011 to exit in the pool stages.  They have a good record against Georgia and should have the beating of Namibia too.  The contest against Argentina might be one the Pacific Islanders target in a bid to reach the knockout stage of a World Cup for the first time ever.

Prediction: Group stage exit