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Rugby World Cup 2023: Familiar foes await Wales in Pool C

There is an air of familiarity about the teams in Wales' pool for the 2023 World Cup in France.

Australia, Fiji and Georgia are the opponents again for Warren Gatland's side, with Portugal replacing Uruguay as the only change from the pool in Japan four years ago.

Wales celebrated a clean sweep of four victories at that tournament as they topped their pool in 2019, but times have changed since then with Wales ranked 10th in the world and below Fiji and Australia.

BBC Sport Wales analyses the Pool C opposition as Wales bid to finish in the top two and achieve quarter-final qualification.


Head coach: Eddie Jones

Captain: Will Skelton

World ranking: Ninth

Star man: Mark Nawaqanitawase. Still only 22, the 6ft 4in wing will be a huge threat in the air and with ball in hand, as Welsh fans will remember from his two-try performance in the Wallabies' comeback win over Wales in November.

2019 World Cup finish: Lost 40-16 to England in the quarter-finals

Best World Cup finish: Winners 1991, 1999.

Prospects in France: For the third successive World Cup Wales and Australia are locked together in a World Cup pool.

Eddie Jones' second coming has been anything but a smooth ride thus far but the coach has lost nothing of his sharp tongued approach.

The Australian took his home nation to the final of their World Cup in 2003 and did the same with England in 2019, while also being part of the coaching staff for South Africa's victory in 2007.

Since taking over in January, Jones has yet to win a game. Australia lost every game of the Rugby Championship including a 38-7 mauling by New Zealand in Melbourne.

Jones has made some bold calls with selection decisions and there were signs of hope during Australia's 23-20 last-minute loss to the All Blacks in Dunedin.

After years of fluctuation, the men in green and gold seem to have settled on young fly-half Carter Gordon to fill the 10 jersey, selecting him as the sole option for the World Cup having omitted the experienced Quade Cooper.

Additionally, Jones has left out 125-cap former captain Michael Hooper as the 31-year-old flanker has a calf injury.

Instead the Wallabies will be led by the huge figure of La Rochelle second row Will Skelton, with the talented Fraser McReight deputising for Hooper.

Forwards: James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Pone Fa'amausili, Zane Nonggorr, Blake Schoupp, Angus Bell, Dave Porecki, Matt Faessler, Jordan Uelese, Richie Arnold, Nick Frost, Will Skelton (capt), Matt Philip, Fraser McReight, Tom Hooper, Rob Valetini, Rob Leota, Langi Gleeson.

Backs: Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Tate McDermott, Nic White, Carter Gordon, Ben Donaldson, Lalakai Foketi, Izaia Perese, Samu Kerevi, Jordan Petaia, Max Jorgensen, Andrew Kellaway, Marika Koroibete, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Suliasi Vunivalu, Josh Kemeny.


Head coach: Simon Raiwalui

Captain: Waisea Nayacalevu

World ranking: Seventh

Star man: Levani Botia. Amongst a wealth of talent Botia stands out. Capable of playing as a flanker or centre he is a menace over the ball and has bounced back from his 2021 Champions Cup final red card with standout performances in La Rochelle's consecutive European triumphs.

2019 World Cup finish: Knocked out in the group stage

Best World Cup finish: Quarter-finals 1987, 2007

Prospects in France: Like Australia, Fiji have become regular pool opponents for Wales at recent World Cups, having been a feature of Wales' pools since 2007.

They return to the scene of their greatest triumph as they prepare to face Wales in France, though the game is in Bordeaux and not Nantes as was the case for Wales' nightmare in 2007.

Fiji are coached by former Newport man Simon Raiwalui who took charge a month later than Jones in February of this year, but his country's run-up to the World Cup has been markedly different.

An unbeaten Pacific Nations Cup campaign, scoring more than 30 points in every game, along with an impressive showing in defeat against France paved the way to a first victory over England at Twickenham.

Not only did this ensure that England suffered their first defeat to a non-tier one nation but it also catapulted Fiji up the world rankings, with the Islanders now seventh and therefore the top-ranked team in Pool C.

Fiji arrive with their customary flair and strong offloading game but with the majority of the team playing for the Fijian Drua in Super Rugby there is more continuity than ever before.

Both scrum and lineout looked solid enough in the victory over England, while fly-half Caleb Muntz's pinpoint goalkicking and tactical nous adds a calming presence at 10.

Forwards: Eroni Mawi, Peni Ravai, Jone Koroiduadua, Mesake Doge, Luke Tagi, Samu Tawake, Tevita Ikanivere, Sam Matavesi, Zuriel Togiatama, Isoa Nasilasila, Temo Mayanavanua, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Albert Tuisue, Lekima Tagitagivalu, Levani Botia, Vilive Miramira, Meli Derenalagi, Viliame Mata.

Backs: Frank Lomani, Peni Matawalu, Simione Kuruvoli, Caleb Muntz, Teti Tela, Josua Tuisova, Semi Radradra, Waisea Nayacalevu (capt), Iosefo Masi, Selestini Ravutaumada, Vinaya Habosi, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Sireli Maqala, Ilaisa Droasese.


Head coach: Levan Maisashvili

Captain: Merab Sharikadze

World ranking: 11th

Star man: Davit Niniashvili. The Lelos pack is formidable but in Niniashvili Georgia have a star in an increasingly potent back line. The Lyon wing or full-back already has 24 caps for his country despite only being 21 and has scored nine tries.

2019 World Cup finish. Knocked out in the group stages

Best World Cup finish: Never got out of the group stage on five occasions since 2003

Prospects in France: After winning two games at the 2015 World Cup against Tonga and Namibia, Georgia might have hoped for better four years later, losing to everyone bar Uruguay in a group that also featured Wales, Fiji and Australia.

Without the talismanic Mamuka Gorgodze who featured in the last four World Cups, Georgia qualified after finishing top of the Rugby Europe Championship for the fifth consecutive year.

Calls for the Lelos to be included in the Six Nations have intensified in recent years with further fuel to that fire after their wins over Italy and Wales last year.

Georgia's leadup to the World Cup has been a by-product of being stuck in Europe's second tier.

A run of eight successive victories starting with Wales and including the likes of Spain, Portugal and the USA was ended by Scotland, who won 33-6 despite Georgia leading at half-time. But the Scots have been Georgia's only tier one opposition this calendar year.

Forwards: Mikheil Nariashvili, Guram Gogichashvili, Nika Abuladze, Shalva Mamukashvili, Luka Nioradze, Tengiz Zamtaradze, Beka Gigashvili, Luka Japaridze, Guram Papidze, Lasha Jaiani, Konstantine Mikautadze,Nodar Cheishvili, Vladimer Chachanidze, Beka Saginadze, Mikheil Gachechiladze, Luka Ivanishvili, Beka Gorgadze, Giorgi Tsutskiridze, Tornike Jalagonia.

Backs: Gela Aprasidze, Vasil Lobzhanidze, Tengiz Peranidze, Tedo Abzhandadze, Luka Matkava, Demur Tapladze, Aleksandre Todua, Merab Sharikadze (capt), Tornike Kakhoidze, Modebadze Mirian, Akaki Tabutsadze, Davit Niniashvili, Lasha Khmaladze, Giorgi Kveseladze.


Head coach: Patrice Lagisquet

Captain: Tomas Appleton

World ranking: 16th

Star man: Samuel Marques. The 34-year-old scrum-half who has previously played for Brive and Toulouse debuted in 2012 but spent eight years in the international wilderness. Now returned, he provides invaluable experience and nerveless goalkicking.

2019 World Cup finish. Did not qualify

Best World Cup finish. Group stage 2007

Prospects in France: For only the second time in their history Portugal are headed to the Rugby World Cup, 16 years after their first appearance.

Their route to qualification was a storied one, finishing fourth in the Rugby Europe Championship they were set to miss out on qualification only for Spain to be disqualified for fielding an ineligible player.

Portugal's qualification came through a last-minute penalty from Marques against USA in the final qualification tournament, putting them into the World Cup on points difference largely due to their 85-0 thumping of Kenya.

Any positive result for Portugal appears to be a tall order, although they can point to a famous draw against Georgia in Tbilisi last year.

Head coach Patrice Lagisquet started on the wing for France in the 1987 World Cup final and won three French league titles with Biarritz in the 2000s, but was also part of the coaching staff of the disastrous France team at the 2015 World Cup.

Forwards: Antonio Machado Santos, David Costa, Diogo Hasse Ferreira, Francisco Fernandes, Francisco Bruno, Anthony Alves, Duarte Diniz, Lionel Campergue, Mike Tadjer, Duarte Torgal, Jose Madeira, Jose Maria Rebelo Andrade, Steevy Cerqueira, Martim Belo, Nicolas Martins, Rafael Simoes, Joao Granate, Thibault de Freitas, David Wallis.

Backs: Joao Belo, Pedro Lucas, Samuel Marques, Jerónimo Portela, Joris Moura, José Lima, Tomas Appleton (capt), Pedro Bettencourt, Rodrigo Marta, Vincent Pinto, Manuel Cardoso Pinto, Raffaelle Storti, Nuno Sousa Guedes, Simao Bento.

Wales pool matches

Wales v Fiji, Bordeaux, Sunday, 10 September 20:00 BST

Wales v Portugal, Nice, Saturday, 16 September 16:45 BST

Wales v Australia, Lyon, Sunday, 24 September 20:00 BST

Wales v Georgia, Nantes, Saturday, 7 October 14:00 BST.