The countdown to Rugby World Cup 2023 has entered its final weeks, with excitement ramping up across the globe.
Can France reign supreme at home? Will the Springboks or All Blacks lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a record fourth time? Can Ireland continue their run at the top of the world rankings and be a factor at the World Cup for the first time?
All will be revealed over the coming couple of months. For now, read on as we preview Pool C!
Coach: Warren Gatland
Captain: Dewi Lake and Jac Morgan
Also known as: -
Best finish: Third 
How they qualified: 2019 semifinalists
Their build-up: There's no sugar-coating the situation, Wales' lead-up into the tournament has been terrible. Sitting with a 5-15 record over the last two years - including a 52-16 defeat to the Springboks in their final warmup match - Wales aren't looking flash as they head to France. They became one of many teams to ditch their coach less than a year out, with losses to Georgia and Australia at the end of 2022 seeing to the end of Wayne Pivac's tenure before Warren Gatland was welcomed back in. But Gatland's return hasn't seen the change in fortune Wales had been hoping for, winning just one game in the Six Nations and downing England in one of their three warmup matches. Off-field issues have also played a major role in the poor build-up with the threat of strike action early in the year overshadowing much of the Six Nations tournament. Meanwhile, five of Gatland's most experienced players retired just months out from the tournament with Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb -- that's 393 caps worth of international experience -- all hanging up the boots.
Player to watch: Jac Morgan. He may be one of the co-captains of the squad, but Morgan is still young with only 11 Test caps to his name. Making his Wales debt in the 2022 Six Nations, it wasn't until the end of year Autumn Nations Series that he cemented his place in the side after he scored four tries in two games. But its his versatility across the back-row that makes him such an instrumental player for Wales, as he is able to suit up at either blindside flanker or No.8. Destructive at the breakdown and huge in defence despite his smaller size, Morgan will be an important presence for Wales.
What are they aiming for: It's quarterfinals or bust for Wales, but following their poor results of late even passing the pool could be a bridge too far, especially with the rise of Fiji over the last few months. Given no time to warm their way into the tournament, Wales will face a confident Flying Fijians side first up with a less intense clash against Portugal before they take on the Wallabies. Claiming a tense win over Australia in 2019, Wales will need to do the same again in France to give themselves a chance of leaving the pool while bonus points could also come into play, meaning big wins against Portugal and Georgia are a must.
Coach: Eddie Jones
Captain: Will Skelton
Also known as: Wallabies
Best finish: Champions [1991, 1999]
How they qualified: 2019 quarterfinalists
Their build-up: Enduring arguably the worst build-up to the tournament of any other side (Wales and England are also battling for the title), the Wallabies went 4-11 last year before they dropped coach Dave Rennie at the start of 2023 to bring in former coach Eddie Jones to turn fortunes around. They've since slumped to a 0-5 record ahead of the World Cup. There hasn't been much to be proud about for the Wallabies; first a 43-12 drubbing in South Africa to start the international calendar before they were pipped in Sydney by Argentina and dropped both Bledisloe Cup games. To compound matters Jones named a highly inexperienced World Cup squad with only one fly-half in Carter Gordon, who has failed to prove his goal-kicking abilities, while Michael Hooper failed to earn a spot on the plane, so too No.10 Quade Cooper. Tighthead prop Allan Alaalatoa earlier ruptured his Achilles a month out from the tournament. A 41-17 hammering at the hands of hosts France just two weeks out from World Cup kick-off has only compounded their issues with the side failing to turn possession into points or convert four of their five attempts at goal.
Player to watch: Fraser McReight. Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper's heir apparent for some time, McReight will finally get his chance to make the No.7 jersey his own while taking part in his first Rugby World Cup. With just 13 Test caps to his name, the flanker is relatively new to the Test arena and will be surrounded by teammates with even less experience. Even still, expect his leadership qualities to shine through while his strength at the breakdown will be hugely important for Australia as they attempt to reach the quarterfinals. A big tackler and just as good as a baller carrier, McReight replicates Hooper's ability to bust the line and often finds the tryline - even crossing in his side's final warmup against France.
What are they aiming for: Following a disastrous lead-up to the tournament, expectations are low but finding their way out of the pool and reaching the quarterfinal will be the bare minimum this side can achieve to be considered a successful tournament. With a highly questionable squad featuring a terrifying lack of goal kicking ability and a lineout that has had its issues, this Wallabies squad will be tested -- particularly by a high-flying Fiji -- but with the draw on their side with their opening match against Georgia and Wales suffering through their own issues, Australia should reach the quarterfinals and perhaps even a semifinal given how unpredictable Pool D has become.
Coach: Simon Raiwalui
Captain: Waisea Nayacalevu
Also known as: Flying Fijians
Best finish: Quarterfinals [1987, 1995, 2007]
How they qualified: Third placed pool finish in 2019
Their build-up: Bar one loss to France in August, Fiji have timed their run to the World Cup to perfection with four from five wins this year, including a huge 30-22 win over England at Twickenham - their first ever over the former World Cup champions. While three of their wins have come against opponents outside the top 10 (Japan, Samoa, Tonga), the Flying Fijians have shown enough over the past 12 months to suggest that they've taken their game to another level. No longer an ill-disciplined, rag-tag playing group, Fiji have demonstrated a strong set-piece, shed themselves of their overreliance on unstructured play and can keep up with the best for the full 80 minutes. While they were showing glimpses of these changes as early as last year, they too were one of many sides to make coaching changes just a few months out from the World Cup, shockingly splitting ways with Vern Cotter and bringing in fan favourite Simon Raiwalui. It appears to have worked so far given their success over the past few months. Featuring a squad with talent spread across both Europe and Super Rugby Pacific, the 2023 cohort is the best prepared group they've ever produced with 18 playing together for Fijian Drua while Semi Radradra, Levani Botia and Viliame Mata bring added experience from Europe. They've certainly put Wales and Australia on notice.
Player to watch: Bursting with talent in the backline and building up a huge forward pack it's hard to select just one player to watch at this World Cup, but with so much on the line in the opening two matches it's the two generals in the middle who'll be tasked with making sure Fiji keep to their structures and their game plan. Both Frank Lomani and Caleb Muntz will be vital to the success of the Flying Fijians through the tournament and are an extremely talented halves pairing to boot. Playing together at the Fijian Drua in Super Rugby Pacific, the duo has brought their pairing to international level where they were integral in Fiji's first win over England and the development of a structured game.
What are they aiming for: Rising to seventh on the World Rugby rankings, Fiji is now the highest ranked team in Pool C. After their history-making win over England just two weeks out from the tournament, reaching the quarterfinals should now be an expectation. Sitting in the same pool as Wales and Australia for the last two editions, Fiji is the only team of the three that has shown any marked improvement, no longer relying on just their fast-paced offload game, but also featuring an impressive set-piece with a solid bac-krow and strong scrum. Taking on Wales first up, Fiji will no doubt look back to their shock 38-34 win in the 2007 edition for inspiration with the Wallabies next up just a week later. While the draw isn't on their side, claiming at least one victory over Wales or Australia will not come as a surprise. With uncertainty around Pool D a semifinal berth isn't out of the question either with England, Argentina, Japan or even Samoa (another side that have shown they've got plenty to prove in France) possible opponents in the quarters.
Coach: Levan Maisashvili
Captain: Merab Sharikadze
Also known as: The Lelos
Best finish: In 2015 the Lelos secured their best result yet with two wins but are yet to pass the pool stage after five attempts (2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019)
How they qualified: Playing in the Rugby Europe Championship featuring the Netherlands, Russia, Romania, Portugal and Spain over 2021 and 2022, Georgia earned their place at the 2023 World Cup after they were left mathematically untouchable at the top of the points table after World Rugby's decision to abandon any remaining matches featuring Russia. Defeating both Spain and Romania in their final two matches, Georgia claimed their 14th title and entered the World Cup as Europe 1 qualifiers.
Their build-up: Given just a few games to prepare themselves for the World Cup, Georgia have earned a swath of wins against non-World Cup participating sides alongside a stunning one-point victory over Wales in Cardiff last year. The most dominant Tier 2 nation, Georgia has been knocking on the door for Tier 1 status for some time. Defeating Wales and Italy last year, they also made light work of Spain, Romania, USA and pool competitors Portugal this year alone, before they were put to the sword by Scotland in the second half of their final warmup match.
Player to watch: Georgian rugby is synonymous with a huge forward pack, belting their way down the field, which is why people should keep their eye on young, up and coming fly-half Luka Matkava. Writing himself into Georgia rugby folklore last year, Matkava slotted the penalty goal to seal Georgia's win over Wales after entering the field five minutes earlier. Only 22-years-old, Matkava will be battling experienced No.10 Tedo Abzhandadze for the starting role but in the few Tests he's played he's shown plenty of skill including ably leading his side to a 75-12 victory over Germany scoring a try and slotting 10 conversions.
What are they aiming for: Despite the unpredictability of the pool, reaching a quarterfinal is still a step too far for the Lelos, but that doesn't mean they won't be aiming to claim a few scalps along the way. Although they drew with Portugal just last year, history is on their side, and they'll be expecting to put their second match of the tournament in the win category. Meanwhile, they'll no doubt be drawing on their shock one-point win over Wales during the Autumn Nations Series in 2022 as inspiration to close out their tournament with a second win and perhaps derail Wales along the way.
Coach: Patrice Lagisquet
Captain: Tomas Appleton
Also known as: Os Lobos (the Wolves)
Best finish: Taking part in only one World Cup previously all the way back in 2007 in France, Os Lobos were defeated in all four matches.
How they qualified: The 20th and final team to qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Portugal earned their place in dramatic fashion with a draw against the United States in the final game of the Final Qualification Tournament in Dubai last year. Forced to take the long route to qualify after they just missed out through the European qualifications, Portugal entered the repechage defeating Hong Kong and Kenya before a 16-16 draw against the USA sealed their place at the tournament.
Their build-up: While they only played two World Cup competing teams in their build up, Portugal have prepared well ahead of the tournament securing a 5-0-2 record including a big 46-20 win over the USA, while they gave the Australia A team a real scare heading into the halftime break with a lead in their final warmup match before they were overrun.
Player to watch: Raffaele Storti There's nothing better than seeing a winger at full flight and Storti is one to keep an eye on in France. Signed with Stade Francais in 2021 but on loan with Bezier in the ProD2, Storti made a name for himself during the 2019 U20s World Trophy after he scored nine tries in four games and has continued to score remarkable five-pointers since. Lightning quick and able to slice through defence with ease, if given just a little space the 22-year-old will put on quite the show for his side.
What are they aiming for: Qualifying for France 2023 was already a massive achievement for Os Lobos, but they'll be aiming to go one better than their time in 2007 and take home at least one victory. While a win over Australia, Wales or Fiji may be a stretch too far for, Portugal have shown before how far they can push Georgia with a 25-25 draw just last year. Facing Wales first up, it'll be their second game against the Lelos they'll have set their sights on.