The only nation at this year’s World Cup who has never won a match, Namibia will be keen to break their duck against either Georgia or Tonga. The Namibian side has a mix between European veterans, South African domestic and university players and a number of local based players. Captain Jacques Burger will lead the team from the flank, and is likely to be partnered by Sharks Number 8 Renaldo Bothma. Exeter’s Chrysander Botha will be responsible for kicking for posts from fullback, while Theuns Kotze is set to start at fly-half.
Namibia are unfortunate to start their tournament against New Zealand, before matches against Tonga and Georgia will allow them an opportunity to break their World Cup duck. Their final match takes place against Argentina, a fixture the South Americans has comfortably won in the past.
Pool Prediction: 5th
Key Players: Jacque Burger, Chrysander Botha, Renaldo Bothma.
Georgia has cemented their reputation as the top tier two European rugby side, winning seven of the last eight European Nations Cups. The gap between them and the professional sides such as Scotland and Italy remain vast, and despite the majority of their pack playing top tier French rugby, their backline is still mostly local based. Georgia boast some of the most effective forwards in French domestic rugby, with giant flanker Mamuka Gorgodze and veteran prop Davit Kubriashvili. Young centres Merab Sharikadze and Tamaz Mchedlidze will be expected to lead their attack, with fullback Merab Kvirikashvili entrusted with the kicking duties.
Georgia will be aiming to better their record of one win at their previous two World Cups, with their first match against Tonga likely being a big target for a win. Argentina and New Zealand will severely test their defensive ability while they would be expected to beat Namibia in their final encounter.
Pool Prediction: 4th
Key Players: Mamuka Gorgodze, Davit Kubriashvili, Merab Kvirikashvili.
After coming 3rd in their previous pools at two World Cups, Tonga will be keen to reach the knock-out stage for the first time in their history. While Tonga has had consistent positive results against weaker opposition, their results against tier one nations and their Pacific rivals has been poor.
Gloucester based flank Nili Latu will captain a somewhat inexperienced side, with the average caps per player being only 16. Western Force lock Steve Mafi will be a key figure in the pack, his mobility complimenting the traditional grunt of the Tongan scrum. Kurt Morah will be expected to lead the attack from fly-half, in a backline that lacks some of the attacking flair seen in other Pacific nation squads.
Georgia will be first up in what is set to be a bruising encounter, after which they will face a Namibia side eager to break their World Cup duck. The match against Argentina will likely be their decider for qualification, before they face giants New Zealand last.
Pool Prediction: 3rd
Key Players: Nili Latu, Steve Mafi, Kurt Morah.
Since announcing themselves as a tier one nation at the 2007 World Cup, Argentina has struggled to match expectations from the neutral public. Their main struggle has been the difference in schedules between their mostly European based squad and their affiliation with the Southern Hemisphere nations in the Rugby Championship. The inclusion of an Argentine side in the 2016 Super Rugby shows promise, especially considering two thirds of their World Cup squad has signed for this unnamed side.
Agustin Creevy will lead the Pumas from hooker, and will be keen to cement his reputation as one of the best on the international scene. Their scrum has always been a highly tricky one to face, while the loose trio including Fernandez Lobbe and Leguizamon is able to match any back-row they face. Nicolas Sanchez is set to don the number ten jersey, with hat-trick hero against South Africa, Juan Imhof their main threat out wide.
Argentina start their tournament against Cup favourites New Zealand, followed by a Georgian side that will want to match them up front. Their first ever match against Tonga will be the likely decider of who qualifies second in Pool C, while they will end their group stage against minnows Namibia.
Pool Prediction: 2nd
Key Players: Agustin Creevy, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Juan Imhof.
Since lifting the trophy in 2011 for the second time, New Zealand has only lost three tests (and drawn two), placing them as firm favourites to become the first nation to win two consecutive World Cups. While their bitter rivals Australia have found some success against them, every other nation has struggled, and it is likely they will cruise to the Semi-Finals.
The New Zealand pack is built on grit and mobility, with veterans Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock complimented by the athletic Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read. Aaron Smith has established himself as the premier scrum-half in the world and will partner arguably the best fly-half of the modern era, Daniel Carter, in his last World Cup. Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith form an effective pairing at centre, while Julian Savea and Sonny Bill Williams are expected to bring the x-factor.
Their campaign starts with the now familiar Argentina (which would also be their toughest game) followed by minnows Namibia four days later. Georgia should offer some resistance up front without realistically challenging the All Blacks before their final pool encounter against Pacific rivals Tonga.
Pool Prediction: 1st
Key Players: Kieran Read, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith.