v Argentina - 30 September, 1600 BST, Parc des Prince, Paris
Recent form: Ireland's form has disappeared since they agonisingly missed out on the Six Nations Championship on St Patrick's Day. They lost twice on tour in Argentina (with a second-and-a-half-string squad) and have followed that up with an away defeat to Scotland and a controversial and unconvincing late win against Italy.
Coach: Ever-quotable former teacher Eddie O'Sullivan cut his teeth at international level by coaching the USA. He took them to the 1999 tournament before returning home to take over from Warren Gatland as Ireland's head honcho in 2001.
Captain: Talismanic centre Brian O'Driscoll was a major injury doubt for the opening game againt Namibia after feeling the full force of Mikaera Tewhata's fist in a warm-up against Bayonne. Thankfully, the 28-year-old recovered from the fractured sinus and fans are hopeful of seeing his lightning acceleration, devilish change of direction and nose for a try.
World Cup pedigree: They are the only one of the eight traditional big nations never to make the last four.
World Cup high: Strangely, a defeat. For a moment it felt like they were going to break through the glass ceiling of the quarter-finals and reach the semi-finals when they pushed eventual winners Australia all the way at Lansdowne Road in 1991.
World Cup low: Much was expected last time, but the Irish never hit their straps and were blown away by France in the knock-out stage.
World Cup legend: Gordon Hamilton was the man who had all of Ireland dreaming in 1991. The flanker galloped clear of the Wallaby defence and scored in the left-hand corner at the Havelock Square end of Lansdowne Road. Cue barmy scenes of delight... and Australia going straight back up the other end to snatch the win with ice cold professionalism.
Present star: "There's no point pretending we don't miss him. There wouldn't be that edge to our attack and defence without him." Coach O'Sullivan on captain O'Driscoll. To prove the point Ireland lost to France when the centre was hamstrung earlier this year. Enough said.
Maverick: Former Gaelic footballer Brian Carney only started playing rugby at the age of 23 - and even then it was league. The ex-Wigan winger swapped codes in March and the 31-year-old electric-heeled Munsterman has been fast-tracked into the World Cup squad.
Enforcer: When Paul O'Connell plays well the Irish pack plays well. The lock and vice-captain made his debut in 2002 in O'Sullivan's first game in charge, is now closing in on 50 caps and scored the last try and Lansdowne Road in 2006.
Strengths: O'Connell is a giant who has the ability and charisma to lift the team, as does O'Driscoll in the backs. On their day Ireland can dazzle out wide and the core of this team have been together for years.
Weaknesses: There is an over-dependency on a handful of men and, without significant strength in depth, injuries will bite. And it is vital they have learnt from the Six Nations when they lacked clinical composure to close out games against France and Italy.
Did you know? Half-backs Peter Stringer and Ronan O'Gara have been playing together since they were "seven or eight" according to scrum-half Stringer. The former school mates have gone on to win the Heineken Cup with Munster and the next time they line up together in green will be their 50th Test start together. No wonder the partnership has something of the telepathic about it.
World Cup base: Bordeaux (from 5 September)
They say: "Why should we worry about who we play in the tournament? We will be giving plenty of the top sides sleepless nights hoping they will avoid us. We have to be one of the top four or five sides who can win it." Brian O'Driscoll
You say: "France and Ireland - very close. Maybe down to points." Parkourrugby on 606
World ranking: 6
Our verdict: Hopes are so high, but if there is going to be a big upset you feel Irish eyes will not be smiling.
Ranking and odds correct at 26 August. Odds supplied by William Hill.