Rugby: World Cup Pool D teams at a glance

31st August 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 31, 2007 (AFP) - A glance at the Pool D teams competing in the 2007 Rugby Union World Cup which runs from September 7 to October 20:

PARIS, Aug 31, 2007 (AFP) - A glance at the Pool D teams competing in the 2007 Rugby Union World Cup which runs from September 7 to October 20:


Aside from the Springboks, Argentina could well be the dark horses for the World Cup. An excellent home series in late May and June which saw 'The Pumas' beat pool rivals Ireland twice and Italy, as well as recording their first ever win at Twickenham over England, firmly establishes them as not only pool winning contenders but final hopefuls. France will not be relishing starting their campaign against them. A traditionally strong pack has been supplemented by flair-filled backs including veteran scrum-half Agustin Pichot and Juan Hernandez. "In my craziest dreams, nothing stops me from thinking of a parade in Buenos Aires. I'm a dreamer, a romantic. And dreams come free," commented Pichot about the chances of winning the ultimate prize. A perfect send-off for coach Manuel Loffreda as he departs for Leicester.


Can the notoriously fragile French hold their nerve and win a trophy that has eluded them and has seen them beaten in two finals? It would give coach Bernard Laporte the perfect boost as he heads off to become sports minister after the tournament. There are no doubts over the talent but resounding defeats by the All Blacks last November will have rattled them and their temperament had to be questioned when they saw their chances of the Grand Slam disappear in the penultimate match against England. The squad selected by Laporte has raised some eyebrows but impressive winning performances in three warm-up games have largely silenced the critics. Whether the mercurial Frederic Michalak can stand up to the pressure before he leaves for rugby in South Africa may well determine how far the French go. Their first match against Argentina should reveal which way they are headed - the exit or for potential glory.


Lost all their matches on their first appearance at the World Cup in 2003 but must be confident of going home with one win to their credit with Namibia in the pool. Qualified thanks to seeing off Portugal. Based on their respectable performances in sevens tournaments, there is a growing base of talent and that can only be encouraging for the future. Their coach Paata Narimanashvili is confident that his team will not be humiliated. "We are hoping to win at least one match in our group and play at our top level in all the others," he said. Likely they will be on the plane home after the first stage but having given a good and brave account of themselves.


One never knows which Ireland will turn up - the side that thrashed England in the Six Nations in record fashion or scraped past wooden-spoonists Scotland. Not much should be read into their two defeats by Argentina as it was a mostly second string squad. However, again it highlighted that if there are injuries to key personnel, there is not much with which to fill the gaps. Supremely talented backs led by the inspirational Brian O'Driscoll back up a pack that is combative and has an outstanding back row. O'Driscoll's absence cost Ireland arguably the Grand Slam last season when they lost to France in the dying seconds. Coach Eddie O'Sullivan survived a form crisis two years ago to weld together a pretty formidable unit. If they stay fit then the Irish could go further than ever before - four quarter-finals is as good as they have managed - but a series of injuries and it could be an early plane home. O'Driscoll is expected to have recovered from a fractured sinus and facial cut, sustained in a punch to the face in a warm-up against French club Bayonne, in time for Ireland's second pool game.


Africa's second representative enters its third World Cup on the trot hoping to avoid a repeat of the record 142-0 thrashing by Australia in 2003. Indeed perhaps their best memory of World Cups came in their first ever match in 1999 when they were level with France after 20 minutes. Sadly it has all been downhill from there for the Welwitschias and a lack of funding and talent has hampered progress and it was probably no mean achievement that they qualified for this edition - beating Morocco in a two-legged play-off. How they must wish that Namibian-born players like Percy Montgomery had nailed their colours to their mast. Sadly, it was not the case and all they can try and do this time is to keep the scores relatively respectable, which is asking a lot even against Georgia.


Subject: French news, Rugby World cut 2007

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