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Veteran wing Shane Williams is Wales only true world-class player
Reuters Veteran wing Shane Williams is Wales' only true world-class player

A glance at the teams competing in the 2011 Rugby World Cup which runs from September 9 to October 23 with Pool D.

Pool D

FIJI
IRB ranking (as of Aug 15): 14
World Cup appearances (inc 2011): 6
World Cup best: Quarter-finals 1987, 2007

In perhaps the tightest pool of all, Fiji will be competing all the way with Samoa and Wales for second place behind likely group winners South Africa. The Fijians, like their hosts, live and breathe rugby, the game dating back on the island to 1884. Their pace and daring has seen them become a byword for the sevens game and they now will have the chance to win Olympic gold in Rio in 2016, but they have never quite broken through in 15s. Four years ago, however, they stunned Wales to reach the last eight where they gave South Africa a decent show. Suprisingly beaten by Japan in the final of the Pacific Nations Cup in July. In Sireli Bobo and Raupeni Caucaunibuca they have two of the best backs in the world but they will miss Jone Qovu and Isa Nacewa. Their selection process was also hit when the NZ government refused to sanction entry visas for any members of the military, protesting against the coup in December 2006.

NAMIBIA
IRB ranking: 20
World Cup appearances: 4
World Cup best: Pool stages

Qualified for their fourth World Cup with victory over Ivory Coast and won the IRB Nations Cup in 2010 but will have ambitions no greater than chalking up a first ever win at the finals. And even that is going to be tough in this tightly-contested pool where every point scored against the Namibians, who have yet to record a win against any of their four opponents, could be crucial. The spectre of their 142-0 defeat by Australia eight years ago could come back to haunt them. The Welwitschias, whose greatest players Jan Ellis and Percy Montgomery, both played for South Africa will relish the prospect of taking on the Springboks.

SAMOA
IRB ranking: 10
World Cup appearances: 6
World Cup best: Quarter-finals 1991, 1995

Watching Samoa is not for the faint-hearted. In between some dazzling running which has earned them plenty of success in the sevens arena, they are renowned as the hardest tacklers on the planet. Wales were the first high profile victims when they were tackled into submission in (Western) Samoa's World Cup entry in 1991. They beat the Welsh again in 1999 and ran England close in 2007. In July, they chalked up a major first by blowing away a sub-par Australia in Sydney. The squad is fully professional and battle-worn with guys like Census Johnson, Ti'i Paulo Joe Tekori and the Tuilagi brothers. Playing on what is effectively home soil, the Samoans may even start as favourites ahead of Wales to take second spot in the pool.

SOUTH AFRICA
IRB ranking: 3
World Cup appearances: 5
World Cup best: Winners 1995, 2007

Obvious favourites to qualify as pool winners, the Springboks will be aim to do what no team has yet managed - and that is to retain their World Cup crown. Champions under Francois Pienaar on home soil in 1995 and current skipper John Smit four years ago, the South Africans head down under with a stable squad and with class oozing from every department - from Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger up front to the likes of Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen and Francois Steyn in the backs. The Boks have never lost to Fiji, Samoa or Namibia and only once in 25 meetings against Wales. On the flip side, they have never been too happy travelling to New Zealand and if the seedings are followed then they are due to meet the hosts in the semi-finals at Eden Park, Auckland - a ground where they haven't beaten the All Blacks since 1937.

WALES
IRB ranking: 7
World Cup appearances: 7
World Cup best: Third place 1987

Ask a Welshman about his team's chances and he will invariable say: "I'll tell you after Samoa." If there is a quiver of trepidation in his voice as he says it, then it is justified as the Samoans have twice dumped Wales out of the World Cup. Get through that one and the Welsh can breathe a little easier, although they still have to negotiate Fiji, the side that dumped them out four years ago. In November they lost narrowly to South Africa before being held to a draw by the Fijians. That was followed by three wins in the Six Nations with defeats by England and France. Thirty-four year old wing Shane Williams, with 55 tries for Wales, is the only truly world class player in the Warren Gatland's squad although this may be the occasion for a number of those bubbling just under - such as flanker Josh Turnbull and fly-half James Hook - to make the step up.