World Cup preview: Pool C

Date published: September 15 2011

Australia are firm favourites to cruise out of Pool C but who will join them in the quarter-finals – Ireland or Italy?

Australia are firm favourites to cruise out of Pool C but who will join them in the quarter-finals – Ireland or Italy?

The Wallabies have been given arguably the easiest group considering that they have not lost to the Irish outside of Ireland in the last 30 years and the Azzurri have never beaten Australia, anywhere.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Ireland should secure second spot but their recent form and Italy's ever-improving team mean that there are absolutely no certainties here. Mark October 2 down in your diary if you're a fan of either side.

Cold War rivals Russia and the USA off an interesting sub-plot but shouldn't trouble the bigger guns.

Rugby World Cup betting odds

Australia will go into the Rugby World Cup with the youngest squad of all 20 countries – even with veteran Radike Samo in their midst. The Wallabies, who are fancied by many to go all the way for their third Webb Ellis triumph, have an average age of 25 years, 363 days but the fact this statistic registers as something of a surprise is a credit to what they have achieved so far. They go into the tournament with a Tri-Nations title and will be looking to the likes of Quade Cooper, David Pocock, James Horwill, Kurtley Beale and Will Genia to be on top form. If they are, it may well be gold for the Golds.

Last World Cup: Quarter-finals
Sky Bet odds: 2/9 to win Pool C
Key player: Will Genia
Pool prediction: 1st


In stark contrast to the aforementioned age statistic from the Australia camp, Ireland have the oldest average age at the tournament at 29 years, 34 days. Their form going into the tournament has been a cause for concern for the Emerald Isle faithful as they failed to register a warm-up victory in four attempts.

They are pretty lucky to be in what is viewed as favourable group (compare it to South Africa, Wales, Samoa and Fiji) – so they are expected to reach the quarters. However one never knows with Ireland as memories of 2007 when they almost fell to Georgia and struggled to shake off Namibia spring to mind.

The clash with Italy in Dunedin on the final day of the group stages is set to make or break Irish hopes.

Last World Cup: Pool stages
Sky Bet odds: 11/4 to win Pool C
Key player: Sean O'Brien
Pool prediction: 2nd

The Italians are a passionate and committed outfit and proved against France in the Six Nations that they have what it takes to create upsets. Having lost out to Ireland by just two points earlier in the year, Italy know that a troubled Irish side could be there for the taking. However, without a fly-half capable of really dictating matters, Nick Mallett's men may struggle in New Zealand. Games against Russia and the USA are must-win clashes and in truth the Italians will have let themselves down if they let it slip against the Eagles.

Last World Cup: Pool stages
Sky bet odds: 40/1 to win Pool C
Key player: Andrea Masi
Pool prediction: 3rd

Despite coach Eddie O'Sullivan's inside info on the Irish one wouldn't give the USA much hope of beating Ireland. But having given England a run for their money in 2007, the Eagles will be buoyed by the possibility of sneaking a major upset. Eddie O'Sullivan's men face a potential banana skin when they come up against Russia. Rated eighteenth and nineteenth respectively but with the men from North America a much more established entity in world rugby, a loss would come as a major blow to the States. Luckily for the Eagles, they head into the game having beaten their opponents in this year's Churchill Cup. On paper the Azzurri should be comfortable victors in the American's final clash but Nick Mallett's men have been known to come a cropper at inconvenient times…

Last World Cup: Pool stages
Sky bet odds: 250/1 to win Pool C
Key player: Todd Cleaver
Pool prediction: 4th

The whipping boys of Pool C, much of Russia's action will be that of damage limitation. But while Nikolay Nerush's men may not possess the necessary skills to challenge those in their pool, a first appearance at a World Cup is a noteworthy and highly creditable achievement. The clash with the USA will provide Russia with their only real chance of pulling off an upset.

Last World Cup: Did not qualify
Sky bet odds: 1000/1 to win Pool C
Key player: Adam Byrne
Pool prediction: 5th