RWC Special: Team Guide: Pool A

Adelaide or bust for O'Driscoll's men
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The Independent Online

10 Oct: Australia v Argentina. 11 Oct: Ireland v Romania. 14 Oct: Argentina v Namibia. 18 Oct: Australia v Romania. 19 Oct: Ireland v Namibia. 22 Oct: Argentina v Romania. 25 Oct: Australia v Namibia . 26 Oct: Argentina v Ireland. 30 Oct: Namibia v Romania. 1 Nov Australia v Ireland

What was that about three being a crowd? Pool A provides the first of the World Cup's pressure points - the Wallabies, short of forwards and low on confidence, must attempt to deal with a highly-accomplished Argentinian team on the opening day of the tournament - and there will be precious little room for error over the subsequent three weeks of group-stage rugby, thanks to Ireland's status as realistic knock-out contenders.

If the Australians are wondering whether their title defence can flourish in the absence of the injured Toutai Kefu, their top-drawer rivals are also hurting on the personnel front. The Pumas have lost their captain, the Bordeaux-based centre Lisandro Arbizu, while the Irish have been denied the off-the-wall genius of Geordan Murphy. There have been major re-thinks all round.

Only two of these nations can make it through to the last eight; a tight squeeze, given that all three are ranked among the top seven in the world by the International Rugby Board. Assuming the first-night Sydney crowd is not made up entirely of corporate hospitality types who would struggle to tell a loose-head from a barracuda, the occasion may prove too much for the South Americans. In which case, an awful lot will ride on the Argentina-Ireland game in Adelaide on 26 October.

Ireland fell foul of the Pumas in 1999, losing the tightest of play-off matches in Lens. While the Irish have changed, and improved, out of all recognition - only six of those who came up short in 1999 are likely to play a part this time - their opponents have improved mightily while keeping changes to an absolute minimum. Reggiardo, Hasan, Fernandez Lobbe, Phelan, Martin, Longo, Pichot, Felipe Contepomi, Albanese and Corleto are all involved again, and will form the backbone of the challenge from the pampas.

An Irish failure down there amongst the vineyards will leave them with a do-or-die meeting with the hosts in Melbourne. Few would back them there, even though the IRB have somehow contrived to rank Brian O'Driscoll and company above the holders. Australia may be lumbered with their most anonymous pack in a generation, but they will be fit, organised to the nth degree and armed with a back division boasting Gregan, Larkham, Roff and Burke, they are certain to ask the right questions in the right places at the right times.

Namibia and Romania are likely to leak entire reservoirs of points against the Wallabies, and probably Ireland too. Argentina, on the other hand, may be less hard on them, and could miss out on the odd bonus point. It will not matter. The match in Adelaide has a winner-take-all look about it, and worryingly, the Irish have developed a habit of under-performing when it really matters. That soft edge may be their undoing once again.

AUSTRALIA

Coach: Eddie Jones

Caps, Age

BACKS

Matthew Burke, NSW Waratahs, 68, 30
Elton Flatley, Queensland R., 27, 26
Matt Giteau, ACT Brumbies, 4, 21
George Gregan (capt), ACT Brumbies, 89, 30
Nathan Grey, NSW Waratahs, 33, 28
Stephen Larkham, ACT Brumbies, 59, 29
Chris Latham, Queensland R., 38, 28
Stirling Mortlock, ACT Brumbies, 20, 26
Joe Roff, ACT Brumbies, 76, 28
Mat Rogers, NSW Waratahs, 12, 27
Wendell Sailor, Queensland R., 13, 29
Lote Tuqiri, NSW Waratahs, 7, 24
Morgan Turinui, NSW Waratahs, 3, 21
Chris Whitaker, NSW Waratahs, 15, 28

FORWARDS

Alastair Baxter, NSW Waratahs, 1, 26
Brendan Cannon, NSW Waratahs, 18, 30
Matt Cockbain, Queensland R., 56, 31
David Croft, Queensland R., 4, 24
Ben Darwin, ACT Brumbies, 22, 26
Matt Dunning, NSW Waratahs, 0, 24
David Giffin, ACT Brumbies, 45, 29
Justin Harrison, NSW Waratahs, 17, 29
David Lyons, NSW Waratahs, 23, 13
Jeremy Paul, ACT Brumbies, 37, 26
John Roe, Queensland R., 0, 26
Nathan Sharpe, Queensland R., 13, 25
George Smith, ACT Brumbies, 28, 23
Daniel Vickerman, NSW Waratahs, 11, 24
Phil Waugh, NSW Waratahs, 15, 24
Bill Young, ACT Brumbies, 19, 28

ARGENTINA

Coach: Marcelo Loffreda

Caps, Age

BACKS

Diego Albanese , Leeds, 52, 29
Felipe Conteponi , Leinster, 34, 26
Manuel Conteponi , Newman, 13, 26
Ignacio Corleto, Stade Francais, 25, 25
Juan Fernandez Miranda , Hindú Club, 16, 28
Nicolas Fernandez Miranda, Hindú Club, 30, 30
Martin Gaitan, Biarritz, 5, 25
Juan Martin Hernandez , Dep Francesa, 4, 21
Jose Maria Nunez Piossek, Huirapuca, 10, 26
Jose Orengo , Grenoble, 32, 30
Agustin Pichot (capt), Stade Francais, 47, 29
Gonzalo Quesada , Beziers, 35, 29
Hernan Senillosa , Hindú Club, 7, 25

FORWARDS

Patricio Albacete , Colomiers, 4, 22
Rimas Alvarez , Perpignan, 19, 29
Pablo Bouza , Duendes, 16, 30
Martin Durand , Champagnat, 22, 27
Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe , Castres, 42, 28
Roberto Grau, Liceo RC, 45, 33
Omar Hasan , Agen, 42, 32
Mario Ledesma , Castres, 38, 30
Gonzalo Longo , Narbonne, 30, 29
Rolando Martin , S.I.C., 80, 34
Federico Mendez , Mendoza RC, 66, 31
Lucas Ostiglia , Hindú Club, 16, 27
Santiago Phelan , C.A.S.I., 40, 29
Mauricio Reggiardo , Castres, 47, 33
Rodrigo Roncero , Gloucester, 6, 26
Martin Scelzo , Narbonne, 24, 27
Pedro Luis Sporleder , Carupayti, 73, 32

IRELAND

Coach: Eddie O'Sullivan

Caps, Age

BACKS

Jonathon Bell, Ulster, 36, 29
Girvan Dempsey , Leinster, 50, 27
Neil Doak , Ulster, 0, 31
Guy Easterby , Rotherham, 19, 32
Denis Hickie , Leinster, 40, 27
Anthony Horgan , Munster, 3, 26
Shane Horgan , Leinster, 19, 25
David Humphreys , Ulster, 56, 32
John Kelly , Munster, 13, 29
Kevin Maggs , Bath, 53, 29
Brian O'Driscoll , Leinster, 41, 24
Ronan O'Gara , Munster, 33, 26
Peter Stringer , Munster, 36, 25

FORWARDS

Simon Best , Ulster, 3, 25
Shane Byrne , Leinster, 22, 32
Reggie Corrigan , Leinster, 26, 32
Victor Costello , Leinster, 32, 32
Simon Easterby, Llanelli, 23, 28
Anthony Foley, Munster, 45, 29
Keith Gleeson, Leinster, 16, 27
John Hayes , Munster, 34, 29
Marcus Horan , Munster, 12, 26
Gary Longwell, Ulster, 25, 32
Eric Miller , Leinster, 35, 27
Donncha O'Callaghan, Munster, 5, 24
Paul O'Connell , Munster, 10, 23
Malcolm O'Kelly , Leinster, 54, 29
Frank Sheahan , Munster, 13, 27
Alan Quinlan , Munster, 16, 29
Keith Wood (capt), Munster, 53, 31

NAMIBIA

Coach: Dave Waterston

BACKS

Lean van Dyk, Western Prov.
Jurie Booysen, Wanderers
Melrick Africa, Reho Falcons
Deon Mouton, Reho Falcons
Corné Powell, Windhoek W.
Du Preez Grobler, Windhoek Utd
Regardt Kruger, Wanderers
Rudie van Vuuren, Windhoek W.
Morné Schreuder, Windhoek Utd
Ronaldo Pedro, Reho Falcons
Hakkies Hüsselman, Mpumalanga P.
Emile Wessels, Stellenbosch Uni.
Desmond Snyders, Rehoboth
Niel Swanepoel, Wanderers

FORWARDS

Neil du Toit, South Western
Johan Jenkins, Free State
Kees Lensing, M. Elephants
Jané du Toit, Griquas
Hugo Horn, Border
JM Meyer, Wanderers
Heino Senekal, Cardiff
Johannes Theron, Griqualand W.
Eben Isaacs, Reho Falcons
Wolfie Duvenhage, Wanderers
Schalk van der Merwe, Windhoek W.
Herman Lintvelt, Windhoek Utd
Sean Furter (capt), Windhoek Utd
Jurgens van Lill, Western Prov.
Archie Graham, Trans Namib
Cor van Tonder, United

ROMANIA

Coach: Bernard Charryere

BACKS

Lucian Sirbu, Racing Paris
Iulian Andrei, S. Bucharest
Cristian Podea, Uni. Cluj
Ionut Tofan, Racing Paris
Gabriel Brezoianu, Beg. Bordeaux
Romeo Gontineac (capt), Aurillac
Valentin Maftei, Valance
Cristian Sauan, Rovigo
Ioan Teodorescu, Uni. Cluj
Vasile Ghioc, D. Bucharest
Dan Dumbrava, S. Bucharest
Bogdan Voicu, Uni. Cluj
Mihai Vioreanu, Palmerston

FORWARDS

Razvan Mavrodin, Tarbes
Petru Balan, Biarritz
Petrisor Toderasc, Farul Constanta
Marcel Socaciu, Rovigo
Dan Tudosa, Racing Paris
Silviu Florea, S. Bucharest
Cezar Popescu, S. Bucharest
Cristian Petre, Racing Paris
Sorin Socol, Brive
Augustin Petrichei, Bourgoin
George Chiriac, Farul Constanta
Costica Mersoiu, S. Bucharest
Marius Nicolae, Lavelannet
Tudor Bogdan, Valance
Marius Pantelimon, Farul Constanta
Marian Tudori, Peirorad
Ovidiu Tonita, Biarritz

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