The eighth Rugby World Cup begins on Friday 18th September at the home of rugby in England; Twickenham, and here at The Hastings and St Leonards Herald, we’ve made a comprehensive pool-by-pool guide, previewing the tournament.
England kick off the tournament against Fiji, surrounded by widespread optimism that this campaign could emulate the World Cup winning side of 2004, and put the misery of the 2011 tournament behind them.
New Zealand won their second World Cup in 2011 after a 24-year wait from the first trophy, and the All Blacks will take some beating, as they aim to make Rugby World Cup history by winning back-to-back titles.
And whilst many are suggesting it is New Zealand’s World Cup to lose, they have never won the tournament in the northern hemisphere, and the likes of England, Ireland, Wales, France, Australia and South Africa all have the potential to steal the crown back from the All Blacks, in what is shaping up to be one of the most exciting World Cups in rugby history.
Read more for our guide to the Pool Stage of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Named also as the toughest pool in World Cup history, if there is to be a World Cup winner from Pool A, it will have been done the hardest way possible.
Stuart Lancaster has built a strong and disciplined England side, more than capable of winning the title at Twickenham.
Fiji are also in the mix. A strong side who are always a team that can cause an upset on their day; England must not underestimate the Fijians on the opening night of the World Cup on Friday.
You have to feel for Uruguay on the other hand. The South American side, with the greatest amount of respect, don’t really stand much of a chance in this pool.
18 Sept: England v Fiji - 8pm, Twickenham
20 Sept: Wales v Uruguay - 2.30pm, Cardiff
23 Sept: Australia v Fiji - 4.45pm, Cardiff
26 Sept: England v Wales - 8pm, Twickenham
27 Sept: Australia v Uruguay - 12pm, Birmingham
1 Oct: Wales v Fiji - 4.45pm, Cardiff
3 Oct: England v Australia - 8pm, Twickenham
6 Oct: Fiji v Uruguay - 8pm, Milton Keynes
10 Oct: Australia v Wales - 4.45pm, Twickenham
10 Oct: England v Uruguay - 8pm, Manchester
Pool B - The Scots have a chance
Scotland also have a chance of making it through the pool stages, and look to be battling it out with Samoa in the fight for second place.
Japan and USA will be no pushovers however, with another entertaining pool on the cards here.
The eventual winners of the pool will face the runners-up from the pool of death, whilst the second placed side will face the winner of Pool A.
19 Sept: South Africa v Japan - 4.45pm, Brighton
20 Sept: Samoa v USA - 12pm, Brighton
23 Sept: Scotland v Japan - 2.30pm, Gloucester
26 Sept: South Africa v Samoa - 4.45pm, Birmingham
27 Sept: Scotland v USA - 2.30pm, Leeds
3 Oct: Samoa v Japan - 2.30pm, Milton Keynes
3 Oct: South Africa v Scotland - 4.45pm, Newcastle
7 Oct: South Africa v USA - 4.45pm, Olympic Stadium
10 Oct: Samoa v Scotland - 4.45pm, Newcastle
11 Oct: USA v Japan - 8pm, Gloucester
Pool C - New Zealand in cruise control
The battle for second place however looks a bit more tasty.
Tonga are a similar side to Fiji as they are always capable of causing an upset. After giving South Africae a real run for their money in 2007, Tonga stunned France four years ago in the Pool stages to claim a famous win.
Argentina and Georgia, who’s forwards may just have enough to cause a slight problem for the All Blacks, join Tonga in the battle for second place, with The Pumas favourite to clinch second spot; whilst Namibia play the role of the whipping boys in Pool C.
19 Sept: Tonga v Georgia - 12pm, Gloucester
20 Sept: New Zealand v Argentina - 4.45pm, Wembley
24 Sept: New Zealand v Namibia - 8pm, Olympic Stadium
25 Sept: Argentina v Georgia - 4.45pm, Gloucester
29 Sept: Tonga v Namibia - 4.45pm, Exeter
2 Oct: New Zealand v Georgia - 8pm, Cardiff
4 Oct: Argentina v Tonga - 2.30pm, Leicester
7 Oct: Namibia v Georgia - 8pm, Exeter
9 Oct: New Zealand v Tonga - 8pm, Newcastle
11 Oct: Argentina v Namibia - 12pm, Leicester
Pool D - A Six Nations Showdown
Though it seems to be a straight shoot-out between the French and the Irish for the top spot, Italy are another side who are not to be underestimated; though they will have to be at their best to progress past Pool D.
France have never lost to Ireland in the World Cup, but the Irish are unbeaten in their last four meetings against Philippe Saint-Andre’s men. The two clash in what promises to be a thrilling encounter in the final Pool D fixture.
Romania and Canada could give Italy a run for their money, but it would be a huge shock should they overcome France and/or Ireland.
Similarly to Pools A and B, the winner from Pool C will face the runner up from Pool D, and vice-versa for the winner of Pool D.
19 Sept: Ireland v Canada - 2.30pm, Cardiff
19 Sept: France v Italy - 8pm, Twickenham
23 Sept: France v Romania - 8pm, Olympic Stadium
26 Sept: Italy v Canada - 2.30pm, Leeds
27 Sept: Ireland v Romania - 4.45pm, Wembley
1 Oct: France v Canada - 8pm, Milton Keynes
4 Oct: Ireland v Italy - 4.45pm, Olympic Stadium
6 Oct: Canada v Romania - 4.45pm, Leicester
10 Oct: Italy v Romania - 7.30pm, Exeter
11 Oct: France v Ireland - 4.45pm, Cardiff
So, there we have the World Cup Pool Preview. Should all go to form, here’s how the knockout stages could line up:
England vs Scotland/Samao
Australia/Wales vs South Africa
New Zealand vs France
Ireland vs Argentina