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Rugby World Cup 2015 group profiles: Pool A

With the line-up for Rugby World Cup 2015 now complete, we begin our series of pool-by-pool guides with a statistical look at Pool A.

From a rankings perspective, Pool A is shaping up to be the toughest pool in the history of the tournament since the IRB World Rankings began in 2003. Heading into the November internationals, England (3rd), Australia (4th) and Wales (6th) have a combined ranking of 13 – one less than the previous worst ‘Pool of Death’ involving Australia, Ireland and Argentina at RWC 2003.

While Australia and England will be led into RWC 2015 by head coaches new to the tournament, in the form of the recently-appointed Michael Cheika and Stuart Lancaster, Wales’ Warren Gatland will be making his third Rugby World Cup appearance. His first involvement came with Ireland, in 1999, and then as Wales boss at RWC 2011.

The two experiences could not have been more contrasting, however. Ireland disappointed at RWC 1999 and exited at the quarter-final play-off stage after a 28-24 defeat to Argentina, while heroic Wales came within a whisker of their first-ever Rugby World Cup final in New Zealand.

Like Gatland, Uruguay head coach Pablo Lemoine can look forward to his third Rugby World Cup, after appearing twice as a player in Los Teros’ 1999 and 2003 campaigns. England are the only team in Pool A that Uruguay have played before at a Rugby World Cup. That match, against the champions-elect in 2003, ended in a 111-13 defeat.

Fiji head coach John McKee’s only hands-on involvement at a Rugby World Cup to date was as a technical advisor to Tonga in New Zealand three years ago. And McKee will be hoping the Flying Fijians can pull off a victory on the scale of Tonga’s shock 19-14 win over France in the last tournament, and prove that qualification for the knockout stages from Pool A is anything but the three-horse race many people predict.

AUSTRALIA

RWC head-to-head record:

v England: W 19-6 (1987), W 12-6 (1991), L 22-25 (1995), L 17-20 (2003), L 10-12 (2007)
v Wales: L 21-22 (1987), W 38-3 (1991), W 24-9 (1999), W 32-20 (2007), W 21-18 (2011)
v Fiji: W 55-12 (2007)
v Uruguay: -

Other RWC records:

Overall Playing Record: Played 43, W 36, D 0, L 7, PF 1922, PA 607, %Win 84
Biggest Winning Margin: 142 (142-0 v Namibia, 2003)
Most Capped RWC player: George Gregan 20
Top Points: Michael Lynagh 195
Top Tries: Chris Latham 11

Did You Know?

While the flamboyant play of David Campese was a standout feature of Australia’s Rugby World Cup win in 1991, the Wallabies success in Wales eight years later was built on rock solid defence. Eddie Jones’ side only conceded one try in the whole tournament: in the 55-19 win against the USA in Limerick.

ENGLAND

RWC head-to-head record:

v Australia: L 6-19 (1987), L 6-12 (1991), W 25-22 (1995), 20-17 (2003), 12-10 (2007)
v Wales: L 3-16 (1987), W 28-17 (2003)
v Fiji: W 45-24 (1999)
v Uruguay: W 111-13 (2003)

Other RWC records:

Overall Playing Record: Played 40, W 29, D 0, L 11, PF 1246, PA 633 %Win 73
Biggest Winning Margin: 98 (111-13 v Uruguay, 2003)
Most Capped RWC player: Jason Leonard 22
Top Points: Jonny Wilkinson 277
Top Tries: Rory Underwood 11

Did You Know?

In the 2007 quarter-final, Jonny Wilkinson overtook Gavin Hastings as the Rugby World Cup's all-time leading points-scorer, kicking all of England's points as they beat Australia 12-10.

WALES

RWC head-to-head record:

v Australia: W 22-21 (1987), L 3-38 (1991), L 9-24 (1999), L 20-32(2007), L 18-21 (2011)
v England: W 16-3 (1987), L 17-28 (2003)
v Fiji: L 34-38 (2007), W 66-0 (2011)
v Uruguay -

Other RWC records:

Overall Playing Record: Played 32, W 17, D 0, L 11, PF 939, PA 633, Win% 53
Biggest Winning Margin: 74 (81-3 v Namibia, 2011)
Most Capped RWC Player: Gareth Thomas 14
Top Points: Neil Jenkins 98
Top Tries: Ieuan Evans, Gareth Thomas 7

Did You Know?

Second row Huw Richards became the first player to be sent off at a Rugby World Cup when he was dismissed for punching Gary Whetton in Wales’ 49-6 semi-final defeat to New Zealand in 1987.

FIJI

RWC head-to-head record:

v Australia: L 12-55 (2007)
v England: L 24-45 (1999)
v Wales: W 38-34 (2007), L 0-66 (2011)
v Uruguay: -

Other RWC records:

Overall Playing Record: Played 24, W 9, D 0, L 15, PF 538, PA 762, %Win 38
Biggest Winning Margin: 49 (67-18 v Namibia, 1999)
Most Capped RWC Player: Nicky Little 14
Most Points: Nicky Little 125
Most Tries: Viliame Satala/Vereniki Goneva 4

Did You Know? 

Prop Epeli Naituivau and number 8 Ifereimi Tawake became the oldest players to play for Fiji at the Rugby World Cup when they packed down in the same match – against England at Twickenham on 20 October, 1999. Naituivau was aged 37 years and 151 days – 122 days older than Tawake.

URUGUAY

RWC head-to-head record:

v England: L 13-111 (2003)

Other RWC records:

Overall Playing Record: Played 7, W 2, D 0, L 5, PF 98, PA 352, %Win 22
Biggest Winning Margin: 12 (27-15 v Spain, 1999 & 24-12 v Georgia, 2003)
Most Capped RWC Player: 8 players (7 appearances)
Most Points: Diego Aguirre 30
Most Tries: Alfonso Cardoso/Pablo Lemoine 2

Did You Know?

Uruguay’s match against Spain at Galashiels, on 2 October, 1999, was the 100th pool fixture to be played in the tournament’s history.