The reality of the 2019 Rugby World Cup just moved a step closer for the competing nations following this morning’s Pool draw in Kyoto, Japan.
Coaches such as Eddie Jones and Joe Schmidt looked on with interest as the fate of their teams was discovered. Jones’ England team will once again grab the headlines having been placed in what is being dubbed as the “Pool of Death”.
They will face the mercurial French, and the ever improving Argentinians – who don’t forget finished fourth at RWC 2015 and gave England a huge test in the autumn of 2016. Completing Pool C will be the second placed Oceania qualifier along with the best from the Americas.
We’ve been here before of course. When the pool draw for 2015 was made, England – then under Stuart Lancaster – were pitted against Australia, Wales, Fiji and Uruguay. Despite leading against Wales, the eventual defeats to them and the Wallabies saw England dumped out of their own tournament before the knockout stages, and meant the end of Lancaster’s reign.
The draw has been kinder to Wales this time, although they do have to pit their wits against Australia again. The interesting challenge in Pool D will be the threat of Georgia. With much talk about promotion and relegation from the 6 Nations, Georgia will be desperate to show that they are worthy of a seat at the top table of European rugby. What better way to show that then to shock the big boys?
Another 2015 repeat will come in Pool A, with hosts Japan meeting Scotland. The Scots beat Japan mere days after the Cherry Blossoms surprised South Africa in 2015. Can a well-rested Japan beat them in their own back yard? Favourites in the Pool will be Ireland, and they’ll be joined by the winners of the Play-Off and Europe 1.
And finally in Pool 2 there is perhaps the tie of the stage. World Champions New Zealand will do battle with South Africa in a repeat of 2015’s amazingly intense semi-final. Italy will be hoping to pick the carcass of the loser and sneak into second place – and have a victory over South Africa to use as inspiration from the autumn.
It is of course tempting to project forwards at this point into potential quarter-finals, but as England well know, to look too far forward is to forget what’s just ahead of you. A first placed Pool finish is of course ideal, but in the last eight of Rugby World Cup 2019, there truly will be eight potential winners.