Former Ulster coach Alan Solomons will watch Ireland's World Cup opener against Namibia in Bordeaux tomorrow night with particular interest.
Ireland, fielding their strongest available line-up, are expected to romp to an easy victory against the lowest ranked nation in the tournament.
Hakkies Husselman's side crashed to a 105-13 defeat to South Africa last month, and if Brian O'Driscoll and co click tomorrow a similar cricket score could be on the cards.
Such a mismatch inevitably attracts criticism about the competitiveness of a 20-team World Cup and also fears that amateur players could get seriously injured against the highly-tuned professional athletes.
Solomons has spent the last four months working as an International Rugby Board rugby consultant trying to ensure that the minnow nations stand more of a chance of being competitive against the top tier sides.
Working for the IRB's high performance unit, he has spent the majority of his time focusing on improving the lot of teams like Namibia, Georgia, Portugal and Romania by overseeing their preparations and helping them bring in specialists like fitness trainers, kicking coaches and scrummaging experts.
Four months has not been long enough to prevent mismatches at this tournament, but Solomons is optimistic that by the time of the next World Cup in New Zealand in 2011, the gap can be bridged significantly to make the tournament, which looks set to be reduced from 20 to 16 teams, a much more competitive event.
"What we have done is dispense advice to them, advised them about their programmes leading into the World Cup and assisted them with their programmes and conditioning.
"I think it has made an enormous difference to those four nations. I think they are in better shape than they would have been, particularly Namibia.
"We brought in a guy called Bazil Carzis, the Bulls Super 14 conditioning coach, and he has made an enormous difference even in such a limited time. The South African Rugby Union lent them a mobile gym and the body shapes of the guys has changed already.
"We also got them a forwards coach, a guy called John Williams, who coached the Bulls, and when we were down in Cape Town I also got a kicking coach to help them and (former Ulster prop) Robbie Kempson to take two or three scrummaging sessions.
"The South African Union has also been helpful in trying to get more of the Namibian players playing in South Africa. They have a number of good players.
"Over the last two months, these guys have gone to training at six in the morning, then gone to work before going back to training again at six at night.
"They have come on leaps and bounds but you are not comparing apples with apples because against teams like Ireland, they are playing top-flight, fully-fledged professionals. But Namibia, thanks to the work done by the IRB, will be a lot more competitive and will play with a hell of a lot of commitment."
If the IRB do cut the World Cup back to 16 teams - with the top 12 sides at this tournament seeded leaving a qualifying tournament over the next four years to fill the four remaining places, the hopes of building towards a more competitive competition look realistic.
With the top 10 sides looking after themselves, heavy investment by the IRB in the remaining six nations would bear real dividends in four years time, with the emphasis on quality not quantity.
"We need a World Cup with meaningful competition, of sides capable of causing an upset," added Solomons. " If you look at the soccer World Cup, there are still probably only six sides capable of winning it but there are still sides capable of causing upsets.
"The High Performance initiative is an outstanding project and if it is progressed with the aim of insuring that you get a competitive World Cup, I think it can be done."