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Italy

Rank

: 15

Coach: Jacques Brunel

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Captain: Sergio Parisse

Previous campaigns
1987: Pool
1991: Pool
1995: Pool
1999: Pool
2003: Pool
2007: Pool
2011: Pool

Overall record: P24 W9 L15

TAB odds: $501

Squad:
Forwards: Forwards: Matias Aguero, Martin Castrogiovanni, Dario Chistolini, Lorenzo Cittadini, Michele Rizzo, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Davide Giazzon, Andrea Manici, Valerio Barnabo, Joshua Furno, Marco Fuser, Quintin Geldenhuys, Mauro Bergamasco, Simone Favaro, Francesco Minto, Sergio Parisse (c), Samuela Vunisa, Alessandro Zanni.

Backs: Carlo Canna, Edoardo Gori, Guglielmo Palazzani, Marcello Violi, Tommaso Allan, Tommaso Benvenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Gonzalo Garcia, Andrea Masi, Luke McLean, Luca Morisi, Leonardo Sarto, Giovanbattista Venditti.

How qualified: Automatic qualifiers after finishing third in their group at the 2011 tournament.

Key player: Sergio Parisse is one of the best No 8s to have played international rugby, especially as he's done it without the luxury of playing in a dominant side. He's skilful, tough and reads the game well.

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World Cup high: They might have been pummelled 70-6 but had the honour of playing the All Blacks in the opening game of the first World Cup in 1987.

World Cup low: A lack of a top goalkicker and sin-binning of Mauro Bergamasco cost Italy a place in the 2007 quarter-finals as they went down 18-16 to Scotland in an ugly encounter.

Did you know? Mauro Bergamasco, who turned 36 in May, will equal a record by playing at his fifth World Cup.

They will be happy if... They somehow sneak into the quarter-finals for the first time.

What we think: Italy have failed to fire up much this year, except when they went on strike in June about World Cup bonus payments, and aren't likely to turn things around at this World Cup.

France

Rank

: 7

Coach: Philippe Saint-Andre

Captain: Thierry Dusautoir

Previous campaigns
1987: 2nd
1991: Quarter-finalists
1995: 3rd
1999: 2nd
2003: 4th
2007: 4th
2011: 2nd

Overall record: P43 W30 D1 L12

TAB odds: $17

Squad:
Forwards: Uini Atonio, Eddy Ben Arous, Vincent Debaty, Nicolas Mas, Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado, Benjamin Kayser, Dimitri Szarzewski, Alexandre Flanquart, Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape, Thierry Dusautoir (c), Bernard Le Roux, Yannick Nyanga, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Damien Chouly, Louis Picamoles.

Backs: Rory Kockott, Morgan Parra, Sebastien Tillous-Borde, Frederic Michalak, Remi Tales, Mathieu Bastareaud, Alexandre Dumoulin, Gal Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Brice Dulin, Sofiane Guitoune, Yoann Huget, Noa Nakaitaci, Scott Spedding.

How Qualified: Automatic

Key player: Thierry Dusautoir was brilliant at the last World Cup, when he was man of the match in the final and was later named 2011 IRB Player of the Year. The skipper goes into the tournament under an injury cloud and is crucial to their chances of progressing beyond the quarter-finals.

France's captain Thierry Dusautoir. Photo / Greg Bowker
France's captain Thierry Dusautoir. Photo / Greg Bowker

World Cup high

: They might have lost but they came within a d'un cheveu of beating the All Blacks in the 2011 final.

World Cup low: Amazingly, they were beaten 19-14 by Tonga in pool play in 2011 - one of their three defeats in the tournament.

Did you know? Coach St Andre, like his predecessor Marc Lievremont, is finishing after this World Cup.

They will be happy if... They can make it to the semifinals. This is not a great French side but we've said that before.

What we think: Quelque fois nous jouons avec la beauté d'un papillon et la puissance d'un taureau mais qui sait qui apparaîtra (Sometimes we play with the beauty of a butterfly and the power of a bull but who knows what will appear).

Ireland

Rank

: 3

Coach: Joe Schmidt

Captain: Paul O'Connell

Previous campaigns:
1987: Quarter-finalists
1991: Quarter-finalists
1995: Quarter-finalists
1999: Lost quarter-final playoff
2003: Quarter-finalists
2007: Pool
2011: Quarter-finalists

Overall record: P30 W17 L13

TAB odds: $7.50

Squad
Forwards:Rory Best, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy, Sean O'Brien, Paul O'Connell (c), Peter O'Mahony, Mike Ross, Donnacha Ryan, Richardt Strauss, Devin Toner, Nathan White.

Backs: Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave, Keith Earls, Luke Fitzgerald, Robbie Henshaw, Paddy Jackson, Dave Kearney, Rob Kearney, Ian Madigan, Conor Murray, Jared Payne, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Simon Zebo.

How qualified: Qualified automatically as winners of pool C at the 2011 World Cup.

Key player: Johnny Sexton has matured into arguably Ireland's most influential player, with the first five-eighths leading them to Six Nations titles in both 2014 and 2015.

Jonathan Sexton of Ireland. Photo / Getty Images
Jonathan Sexton of Ireland. Photo / Getty Images

World Cup high

: Ireland were brilliant in their 15-6 defeat of the Wallabies in 2011, to not only finish top of their group but also beat Australia for the first time at a World Cup, but couldn't replicate that against Wales in the quarter-finals.

World Cup low: Ireland looked set for a place in the semifinals in 1991 until Michael Lynagh scored with three minutes remaining to hand Australia a 19-18 victory - the Wallabies went on to win the tournament.

Did you know? Coach Joe Schmidt, who recently extended his contract until 2017, turned 50 last week (Sept 12).

They will be happy if... There's genuine belief within Ireland they can at least make it to the final at Twickenham.

What we think: If they stumble against France, they will meet the All Blacks in a quarter-final at Cardiff and that is not the route anyone from the Emerald Isle will ponder with as much relish as a duel with the likely Pool C runners-up, Argentina.

Canada

Rank

: 18

Coach: Kieran Crowley

Captain: Tyler Ardron

Previous campaigns:
1987: Pool
1991: Quarter-finalists
1995: Pool
1999: Pool
2003: Pool
2007: Pool
2011: Pool

Overall record: P25 W7 D2 L16

TAB odds: $1001

Squad:
Forwards: Tyler Ardron (c), Ray Barkwill, Brett Beukeboom, Hubert Buydens, Aaron Carpenter, Jamie Cudmore, Nanyak Dala, Kyle Gilmour, Jason Marshall, John Moonlight, Evan Olmstead, Benoit Piffero, Djustice Sears-Duru, Jebb Sinclair, Richard Thorpe, Andrew Tiedemann, Doug Wooldridge

Backs: Conor Trainor, Liam Underwood, DTH van der Merwe, Jeff Hassler, Ciaran Hearn, Nathan Hirayama, Harry Jones, Phil Mack, Jamie Mackenzie, Phil Mackenzie, Matt Evans, Nick Blevins, Connor Braid, Gordon McRorie.

How qualified: Beat the US 27-9 away then 13-11 at home in a regional shootout for direct entry.

Key player: Given his name, it's no surprise John Moonlight has shone in Canadian rugby. He's a standout in the national sevens team - he was named in the 2013-14 World Rugby sevens 'dream team' - and the loose forward is an integral member of the 15s side.

John Moonlight of Canada. Photo / Getty Images
John Moonlight of Canada. Photo / Getty Images

World Cup high

: Being competitive against the All Blacks in a 29-13 quarter-final defeat in 1991. They got that far after beating Fiji and Romania in pool play.

World Cup low: Having two players sent off in an ugly brawl in a 22-0 defeat to South Africa in 1995.

Did you know? Canada played in all seven previous tournaments with 2007 the only time they have failed to win a match (they drew with Japan).

They will be happy if... They are competitive. As many as 18 of their squad of 31 are heading to their first World Cup.

What we think: Canada have not won a game since they beat Namibia last November and, with the forwards struggling for cohesion, they face a hard time at this tournament. It's the second World Cup coaching gig for Crowley.

Romania

Rank

: 17

Coach: Lynn Howells

Captain: Mihai Macovei

Previous campaigns:
1987: Pool
1991: Pool
1995: Pool
1999: Pool
2003: Pool
2007: Pool
2011: Pool

Overall record: P24 W5 L19

TAB odds: $5001

Squad:
Forwards: Paulica Ion, Mihaita Lazar, Andrei Ursache, Alexandru Tarus, Horatiu Pungea, Andrei Radoi, Otar Turashvili, Eugen Capatana, Valentin Popirlan, Johannes van Heerden, Marius Antonescu, Valentin Ursache, Mihai Macovei (c), Viorel Lucaci, Stelian Burcea, Ovidiu Tonita, Daniel Carpo.

Backs: Florin Surugiu, Valentin Calafeteanu, Tudorel Bratu, Danut Dumbrava, Michael Wiringi, Paula Kinikilau, Florin Vlaicu, Csaba Gal, Adrian Apostol, Ionut Botezatu, Florin Ionita, Madalin Lemnaru, Catalin Fercu, Sabin Stratila.

How qualified: Thirty-one nations were involved in European qualification, with Romania and Georgia progressing. With both sides assured a place, Georgia won the European Nations Cup final 22-9 to join New Zealand's group.

Key player: Romania's strength lies up front and Otar Turashvili, who mainly plays hooker but can also slot in at prop, is a key man in their scrum. Of Georgian descent, the 29-year-old is one of four players who qualify under residency rules - they also have Kiwi first five-eighths Michael Wiringi, Tongan centre Paula Kinikilau and South African lock Johannes van Heerden.

Romania's Marin Danut Dumbrava. Photo / AP
Romania's Marin Danut Dumbrava. Photo / AP

World Cup high

: Romania beat Fiji 17-15 at Brive in 1991 to finish third, and above the Fijians, in their group. They also beat the US 27-25 in 1999.

World Cup low: Their heaviest defeat came in a 90-8 defeat to Australia at Brisbane in 2003. They were also thrashed 85-8 by the All Blacks in 2007.

Did you know? The team cleared 1.5m of snow from the field for their first practice session with coach Lynn Howells.

They will be happy if... They are competitive. Many believe they achieved their greatest victory in qualifying for the tournament.

What we think: Those opinions might well be on the money as most of Romania's sides are semi-professional and political conflict continues to stunt the sport's development at the top level. Lack of funding keeps Romania as a Tier 2 nation.