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Rugby World Cup Pool C preview: Big guns could find themselves in trouble in competitive quintet

Pool C at the Rugby World Cup looks wide open, with Australia, Fiji, Georgia and Wales all fancying their chances of qualifying for the last eight.

Portugal complete the group and represent a chance for all of their rivals to take five points, meaning the head-to-heads between the top teams will prove vital.

Australia and Wales have picked relatively new-look squads, while Fiji have been hit with a huge injury blow on the eve of the tournament.

They still look the most settled side, though, while Georgia will also be confident after beating Wales last November.

There could be upsets galore in Pool C and multiple subplots suggest it will be extremely close.

WhatPool C, 2023 Rugby World Cup
WhereVarious venues across France
WhenSaturday 9th September - Sunday 8th October, 2003 
How to watchITV
OddsPool C - Australia 1/2, Wales 12/5, Fiji 7/1, Georgia 80/1, Portugal 500/1

Australia

Eddie Jones has been on top form in regards to his run-ins with the media in recent weeks, but it is hard not to think that his antics may have been intended to place focus on himself and not his struggling Wallabies side.

The 63-year-old returned for a second spell in charge at the start of the year and has since lost five games from as many outings.

As a result he has wiped the slate clean by selecting an incredibly young 33-player squad, including 15 players aged 24 or under, as he starts plans for the next World Cup on home soil in 2027.

It means the Wallabies can play without pressure, but there is a reason they are 11/1 to win a third World Cup and the competitiveness of this pool means missing out on the quarter-finals is a real possibility.

Jones' side are 12/1 to fall at the first hurdle, but reached the final under his guidance in 2003 and he did the same four years ago with England.

However, with Wales, Fiji and Georgia to come, Eddie's edgy decision to select a young squad could backfire.

Fiji

Fiji are undoubtedly the team to watch in Pool C. They last reached the knockout stage in 2007, beating Wales in the pair's final group match, and finally seem to have developed a team with a semblance of balance.

They still have real attacking quality in the likes of Levani Botia, Josua Tuisova and Semi Radradra, but coach Simon Raiwalui has introduced structure into their play and placed extra focus on fitness.

Fiji have also been helped by the presence of their own Super Rugby franchise, the Fijian Drua, but they have been hit by a significant setback with the news that fly-half Caleb Muntz will miss the tournament due to a knee injury.

Their excellent summer of winning the Pacific Nations Cup and beating England coincided with Muntz's debut earlier this year and it now looks like it will be up to back-up Teti Tela to guide them around the field.

Even so, with temperatures set to soar, they are a tempting 17/10 to beat Wales in Bordeaux on Sunday, and that would only boost their 6/4 hopes of making the quarter-finals.

Georgia

Georgia's win in Cardiff last November was further evidence of their progress, but a tough draw makes it unlikely that they will qualify from Pool C.

The Lelos' efforts are built on a bruising pack that can match the best sides at scrum time, while former England back-rower Joe Worsley has designed a solid defensive system.

However, although there is plenty of excitement surrounding fly-half Luka Matkava, they can sometimes struggle to get the ball to their game-breakers in the outside backs, notably full-back Davit Niniashvili.

Georgia will not be short of effort and desire, and it is inconceivable that they will not ease past Portugal. 

Much could depend on their opening match against Australia, a fixture they are 9/1 to win, but there is uncertainty as to whether they will be able to get one over on Wales again, or have the skill to get past Fiji.

Portugal

Portugal return to the World Cup for the first time in 16 years, having made their tournament debut in France in 2007.

They lost all four matches on that occasion and more of the same is likely, with the Portuguese an unenviable 1/10 to finish bottom of Pool C.

Os Lobos' best players largely play in the lower reaches of French professional rugby and not all of their squad are full-time, with captain Tomos Appleton doubling up as a dentist.

They do have talent, though, with wing Rodrigo Marta already his country's top try-scorer at the age of 23.

Passion will be a big part of Portugal's approach, but there is a reason they are such big odds to win the pool and 250/1 to reach the quarter-finals.

Wales

Like Australia, Wales went back to the future in time for the 2023 season as they reappointed Warren Gatland as head coach.

The Kiwi oversaw their runs to the semi-finals in both 2011 and 2019, and has used 2023 to date to test players and discard some of those he feels are no longer up to the standard, regardless of their pedigree.

Forwards Dewi Lake and Jac Morgan have been appointed as co-captains, but rather than revolutionise his side's style, more 'Warrenball' is likely to be on the agenda, with the team excelling at the basics and Dan Biggar kicking his goals and finding the corners.

Wales may not have the star power of previous tournaments, but will have spent the summer being drilled by Gatland and his assistants and, while their set-piece has faltered at times, they should be ready to face Fiji in their opening game.

The conditions could cost them in Bordeaux, but in a Pool C that may see the winner top the group with three victories, they will have a plan for every opponent and are 12/5 to top the group.

Pool C fixtures

DateTeamTeamVenue
Saturday 9th SeptemberAustraliaGeorgiaStade de France, Saint-Denis
Sunday 10th SeptemberWalesFijiNouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Saturday 16th SeptemberWalesPortugalAllianz Riviera, Nice
Sunday 17th SeptemberAustraliaFijiStade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Etienne
Saturday 23rd SeptemberGeorgiaPortugalStadium de Toulouse, Toulouse 
Sunday 24th SeptemberWalesAustraliaParc Olympique Lyonnais, Decines-Charpieu
Saturday 30th SeptemberFijiGeorgiaNouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Sunday 1st OctoberAustraliaPortugalStade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Etienne
Saturday 7th OctoberWalesGeorgiaStade de la Beaujoire, Nantes
Sunday 8th OctoberFijiPortugalStadium de Toulouse, Toulouse 

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