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William Webb Ellis Trophy

Pool A (World Ranking and Betting Odds)

Australia (3)    8-1

England (5)      4-1

Wales (6)         16-1

Fiji (9)             1,000-1

Uruguay (19)  5,000-1

Pool Ranking Average: 8.4

Past RWC Performances:

Team               Winner           Runner Up     3rd       4th       Total

Australia         2                      1                        1          1              5

England           1                      2                        0          1             4

Wales              0                      0                          1          1              2

Total               3                      3                        2          3             11

Overview: In one pool, four of the top ten rated sides in the tournament. Six past RWC finalists out of 14 total is an indication of World Cup triumph. Historic rivalry of Wales and England, which meet annually in the Six Nations Cup. Last year, England prevailed 21-16 at Twickenham. Fiji offer upset possibility versus all three, higher rated XVs.

Recent Results

Australia went undefeated in this season's Southern Championship (shortened to three matches) with a narrow victory at home against All Blacks. But lost to NZ by a large margin the week after in Auckland. England split recently with France home and away. Wales lost to Ireland at home and beat them in Dublin. Fiji won the Pacific Nations Cup, including a championship final over Samoa.

Inside the Matches

England enjoy a decided home field advantage, playing three of the four pool games in Twickenham. There, 82,000 fans - the majority, Red Rose supporters - will encourage the team with "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." Wales play two matches in Cardiff against Uruguay and Fiji. Australia and Wales meet in Twickenham. Importantly for England, they play Uruguay last so this breather could be a rest for the weary and the injured. In addition, if point differential is a decider of who advances, England will know how many to score.

Final Thoughts

England is the host nation and must advance far for the nation to consider the event a success. But one of the top three will not make it into the quarter final round, which will generate much gnashing of teeth, and probably, the sacking of the coach. The playing question is will three or four tough Pool A games to qualify sap the energy from the two that move forward, making them vulnerable to advancing nations from less difficult pools?