Guide to Rugby World Cup’s toughest pool




Won a truncated Rugby Championship after toppling South Africa and New Zealand at home, but then slipped to a heavy defeat in Auckland to ensure the Bledisloe Cup eludes them once more. Shaping up well under new coach Michael Cheika and possess arguably one of the most gifted backlines.

Captain: Stephen Moore:

Took over the job from Michael Hooper for the Rugby Championship and earned plaudits for his leadership. A fearless ball-carrying hooker who idolised Ireland great Keith Wood as a youngster.

Star player: Israel Folau:

Playing his third football code, the wonderfully gifted Wallabies full-back is now 33 appearances into his rugby union Test career and set to make his first World Cup a box-office appearance.

World Cup history:

As winners in 1991 and 1999 and runners-up in 2003, Australia boast a proud World Cup record. Have a habit of finding a way around their weaknesses and are always a force when challenging for the Webb Ellis Cup.



Four successive runners-up finishes in the RBS 6 Nations paint an accurate picture of a team that has made a habit of falling just short, often by the narrowest of margins. Mixed fortunes in the two warm-up games against France have added uncertainty, although the management would justifiably advise against reading too much into the games.

Captain: Chris Robshaw

A brave openside who leads by example week after week. His appetite for work is dizzying and he repeatedly tops the tackle and carry charts. Foraging on the ground remains a weakness, however.

Star player: Jonathan Joseph.

Watching Joseph switch on the afterburners to glide through outside channels evokes memories of Jeremy Guscott in his pomp. Add in his dazzling footwork and England possess an outside centre of rare quality.

World Cup history:

Winners in 2003 when Jonny Wilkinson kicked an extra-time drop goal with seconds to spare and beaten finalists in 1991 and 2007. Finished fourth in 1995, but bombed in 2011.



Wales won the 2012 and 2013 Six Nations, but then saw Ireland steal their crown for the next two years. Put themselves in with a chance of winning on the final day of this year’s Championship, only to miss out on points difference. Still struggle to defeat the biggest southern hemisphere teams, falling just short time and again.

Captain: Sam Warburton.

Still only 26-years-old, Warburton is one of the most established captains in international rugby. Made his debut in 2010 and was appointed skipper the year after. Two years later he led the British and Irish Lions to Australia.

Star player: George North.

The giant wing was sidelined for the end of last season and much of the summer due to concussion, but has been restored to fitness. Powerful and direct, North could be a star of England 2015.

World Cup history: It has been lean pickings for Wales, who struggled in the tournament until 2011 when they were edged by France in a nail-biting semi-final that saw Warburton dismissed for a spear tackle. Howls of protest ensued.


Form: ery good, defeating Tonga, Samoa and Japan to set up a 2015 Pacific Nations Cup final against Samoa, who they toppled with a convincing 39-29 victory. Only weeks earlier Samoa had given New Zealand a second-half scare in Napier before going down 25-16, a result that speak volumes for Fiji’s achievement.

Captain: Akapusi Qera.

The Montpellier openside will be appearing at a third World Cup and his second as Fiji’s captain. A well-travelled openside who played for Gloucester for seven years, he is a key link in Fiji’s attacking game.

Star player: Niki Goneva.

Made his name for Leicester in the 2013-14 campaign as strong try-scoring centre who can make a break and while he failed to scale those heights last season, the squad’s vice-captain is one of Fiji’s dangermen.

World Cup history:

Fiji have precious few wins against tier one nations, but their 38-34 victory over Wales in 2007 was one of them. It remains their World Cup highlight, although their battling 37-20 loss to South Africa in the ensuing quarter-final was admirable.



Thrashed by Japan in the build up to the World Cup, it could be argued that just by qualifying for the global showpiece Uruguay have succeeded. Toppling Russia over two legs has earned their place at the tournament, but a long four weeks awaits in the toughest pool in history.

Captain: Santiago Vilaseca.

Uruguay were dealt a blow when experienced back row Rodrigo Capo Ortega, who also played in the 2003 World Cup, unexpectedly announced his international retirement. Hard-working flanker Vilaseca has stepped into the breach.

Star player: Felipe Berchesi.

The fly-half is a reliable kicker out of hand and from the tee and is the pivot for Uruguay’s attack. A strong game-manager and will need to be when he faces Australia, England, Wales and Fiji.

World Cup history:

England 2015 will be Uruguay’s third World Cup and the South Americans be hoping to improve on a record of two wins from seven matches. In 2003 England scored 111 points against them.

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