South Africa may have won the World Cup four years ago, but the team that turned the 2007 tournament upside down was Argentina.
After shocking their French hosts in the opening match in Paris with a performance that was a wonderful balance between defensive pragmatism and offensive daring, the Pumas went on to reach the semifinals for the first time.
They came up short against the Springboks but bounced back to mug the French for a second time to take the third-place play-off.
Argentinean rugby was firmly on the map. It had been a long journey. The game arrived courtesy of British and Irish immigrants in the 19th century, the first match played in 1873.
The national team took to the stage against a touring team from Britain in 1910 so, in spite of some good results over the years, it took nearly a century for the South Americans to claim their place beyond all doubt at the top table.
The only problem is that they now face the task of performing with equal distinction.
"The new generation is feeling the pressure," former Puma Gonzalo Quesada, top points scorer at the 1999 World Cup when they reached the last eight, told AFP.
"Everyone is expecting the same thing, and that is not going to be easy."
Last time they had France and Ireland in their group; this time the other big guns are England, the Six Nations champions, and Scotland with Georgia and Romania making up the numbers in Pool B.
"It's difficult to know how far they can go," says Quesada who is now kicking coach with the French national team.
"They have a tough pool with England and Scotland but the players are almost at the same level as they were four years ago.
"2007 was huge and a big surprise. There is not that surprise element now but the players can certainly aim for the semifinals. They will absolutely go for it from game one against the English with the objective of winning.
"First the game is important; second, after what happened in France they would be stupid not to go for it again. And third you have to look at the possible quarterfinals.
"The chances are that New Zealand will win pool A and will play the team coming second in Argentina's group. That is a good motivation for winning the group," he said.
The Argentine side is peppered with names that demand respect throughout the rugby world. Seasoned front-row forwards like Rodrigo Roncero and Mario Ledesma are backed up by the likes of Patricio Albacete and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe in the back row.
The forwards will again be the dominant aspect of the Puma game but behind the scrum the backs are marshalled by the perenially excellent Felipe Contepomi.
Lobbe is 29 but the rest of those key players are all over 30 with Ledesma now the senior citizen at 38. Quesada, though, rejects the suggestion that the team is too old.
"If you look at Ledesma and Roncero (34), well yes you can say they are very experienced. We are not used to seeing players still playing at this level at this age.
"But last season, Ledesma was still first choice hooker for Clermont. Even if he is getting older, he is still playing at a very high level and his presence is still important for the spirit of the team," he added.
The one glaring absentee is the mercurial flyhalf come fullback Juan Martin Hernandez who was left out of the sqaud after failing to recover from a knee ligament injury.
As in France four years ago, it seems certain that the Argentineans will dive into the tournament from the opening whistle, and there is no doubt that the opening match against England is one they are relishing.
"Against England there is a big rivalry," says Quesada. "Argentina v England is a special game in football and the same is true in rugby. We would love to be able to say we beat England."
The first big test for a relatively inexperienced coach. The 37-year-old Phelan was one of those players who helped the Pumas climb the world ladder, his finest hour coming at Lens in the 1999 World Cup when they beat Ireland, something that may not have gone down too well with the Irish side of his family. Quitting after the 2003 World Cup, Phelan turned to coaching with Club Atletico San Isidro and then in 2008 he succeeded Marcelo Loffreda.
Patricio Albacete - lock
Argentina has been blessed with its share of great forwards but Albacete is perhaps the best there has ever been. The 29-year-old Toulouse lock is going into his third World Cup at the peak of his game - voted by rugby newspaper Midi-Olympique the best lock in the French championship last season. Albacete has it all; great hands, he is a tireless tackler and is capable of explosive shows of power that can punch holes in any defence. A leader among leaders.
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