Rugby World Cup Group C guide

NEW ZEALAND

Form

Any doubts emerging from New Zealand’s surprise Rugby Championship defeat to Australia were soon extinguished as the All Blacks exacted revenge with an emphatic victory seven days later. The squad’s ageing stars are showing few signs of decline and Steve Hansen’s side come to England as clear favourites to defend their 2011 crown.

Captain: Richie McCaw

McCaw is the most capped player in Test history after making his 142nd appearance this summer. The flanker is the totem of the New Zealand side and will be leading them out for his fourth World Cup.

Star player: Julian Savea

Savea’s 30 tries in 35 international matches is testament to his status as the most lethal finisher in the game. The winger’s strength and pace makes him a frightening prospect for any defence.

World Cup history

New Zealand are bidding to become the first team to win a third World Cup after previous triumphs in 1987 and 2011. It is remarkable then the All Blacks are still considered under-achievers on the biggest stage, having lost one final, three semi-finals and a quarter-final in 2007.

ARGENTINA

Form

A superb Rugby Championship win over South Africa – the first in their history over the Springboks – offered a glimpse of what Argentina are capable of when they hit top gear. A try-less defeat against the same opponents seven days later, however, suggests the Pumas still lack the penetration and consistency to challenge.

Captain: Agustin Creevy

Creevy, a tenacious hooker, is also renowned for his handling skills and brings much-needed experience to the Argentina ranks. The 30-year-old played at the 2011 World Cup and has represented Biarritz, Clermont and Worcester at club level.

Star player: Juan Martin Hernandez

Argentina’s strength traditionally lies in the pack but Hernandez’s creativity injects sparkle into the back line. The 33-year-old has 53 Test matches to his name and his reliable boot represents a valuable weapon for point-scoring.

World Cup history

Argentina’s steady progress on the international stage gained lift off in 2007 when they beat Ireland and France, twice, to finish third. Before then, the Pumas had only escaped the Pools once in five attempts. They did so again four years ago, before losing to eventual champions New Zealand in the quarter-finals.

TONGA

Form

Victories over Japan, the United States and Canada in the Pacific Nations Cup this summer will have given Tonga confidence ahead of the World Cup but defeats to Fiji, as well as Scotland in November last year, suggest they are still outsiders to reach the knock-out stages.

Captain: Nili Latu

Latu made his Test debut in 2006 and the back-row forward has since established a reputation as one of the toughest tacklers in the game. Now 33, this will likely be Latu’s last World Cup and he will eager to go out with a bang.

Star player: Fetu’u Vainikolo

Vanikolo is no newcomer to international rugby, having made 21 Test matches for Tonga, but he has scored an impressive 16 tries in that time including one against Japan at the World Cup four years ago.

World Cup history

Tonga have never made it past the pool stage at a World Cup although a 19-14 win over France in 2011 put them in contention, before defeat to Canada ended the Islanders’ hopes of progress. Tonga have improved in each of their six tournaments but they will likely have to overcome Argentina if they are to make the knock-outs this time around.

GEORGIA

Form

Wins against Romania, Russia, Spain, Portugal and Germany this year have shown Georgia to be a cut above the emerging European nations but they still have work to do to close the gap on more established sides as proven by convincing defeats to Tonga and Ireland at the end of last year.

Captain: Levan Datunashvili

Datunashvili has been a regular fixture in the Georgian side for more than 10 years since making his Test debut in 2004. The veteran lock played in both his country’s two World Cup victories to date and will be eager to build on those successes in Pool C.

Star player: Mamuka Gorgodze

Georgia boast a number of powerhouse forwards and driving at the back of that scrum is Toulon back-rower Gorgodze. At 6ft 5in and 118kg, “Gorgodzilla” is an intimidating presence for any opponent, which he demonstrated in a superb World Cup display against England four years ago.

World Cup history

This year’s tournament represents a fourth consecutive World Cup for Georgia, an achievement in itself given they only first qualified in 2003. Since then they have managed two wins, against Namibia in 2007 and Romania in 2011, but the knock-out stages remain a remote possibility.

NAMIBIA

Form

Namibia are still the standout African side, as proven by comfortable wins over Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tunisia this year. Victories over Romania and Russia have also offered room for encouragement, either side of a disappointing defeat against Spain in June.

Captain: Jacques Burger

Burger will be leading his side out for a third World Cup and it will be a particularly special achievement for the fearless Saracens flanker, who almost had to retire through injury two years ago.

Star player: Tinus du Plessis

Du Plessis has seven World Cup appearances under his belt and the 31-year-old’s experience will be important in containing superior opposition. The back-row forward has scored six tries in 43 appearances for his country.

World Cup history

Namibia are yet to register a single victory in 15 World Cup matches and hold the unfortunate record of the tournament’s greatest defeat, losing 142-0 to Australia in 2003. That margin may be under threat when the competition’s lowest ranked side meet New Zealand in Match 12, while Georgia represent the team’s best chance of a first World Cup win.

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