The Wiliam Webb Ellis trophy, seen on display before the
2011 Rugby World Cup. Photo Reuters
Hosts England and Six Nations champions Wales paid a
heavy price for the November defeats that sent them tumbling
them down the rankings when they were put in a tough pool with
Australia in the draw for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Holders New Zealand, who have never lost a pool game in the
tournament, got a favourable draw as they will face
Argentina, Tonga and two qualifiers.
Twice winners South Africa were paired alongside Samoa for
the fourth consecutive World Cup and Scotland, while fourth
seeds France, who leapfrogged England in the rankings to
snatch the last top-tier seed, were rewarded with games
against Ireland and Italy.
Tournament officials said the draw was made three years ahead
of the event to ease planning and logistics and they now know
to organise sizeable venues for the eye-catching Pool A
England's November defeats by Australia and South Africa sent
them into the second tier of seeds while Wales's precipitous
decline since their Six Nations grand slam dropped them to
the third tier a little over a year after they reached the
World Cup semi-finals.
So they now face the toughest group, alongside twice
champions Australia, along with "Oceania 1", possibly Fiji,
and the winners of a final playoff.
While the importance of topping a pool can be debated, the
fact remains that no team has lost a World Cup match and gone
on to win the trophy.
"It is definitely a pretty tough pool," England coach Stuart
"We might have to change our warm-up games," he added, after
England had played Wales in warm-ups before previous World
"Australia have just beaten us and if you look at the age and
profile of their squad, they have got some young lads as
well. We will look forward to it."
Australia captain David Pocock said of the rivalry with the
host nation: "It runs deep. To play them in the pool there
will be a lot of hype around that game and it's one you look
forward to as a player."
CRUMB OF COMFORT
One crumb of comfort for the teams in Pool A is that should
they top it they are unlikely to play world champions New
Zealand, who England hammered 38-21 at Twickenham on Saturday
having lost the previous nine meetings, until the
Wales have also lost their last nine games against Australia
but coach Warren Gatland put a positive spin on the draw.
"We put ourselves in this position and our experience of 2011
is that if you come out of a tough group it sets you up for
the quarter and semi-finals," said Gatland, whose side lost
to South Africa but beat Fiji and Samoa before overcoming
Ireland in the quarter-finals.
"The tougher the group the better. If you look at New Zealand
often they don't get tested enough in the pool stage, Teams
sometimes field a second side against them. And then they
often come undone."
If New Zealand win their pool, as they have in every previous
tournament, they face the runners-up of Pool D, likely to be
France, Ireland or Italy. Pool C runners-up, Argentina or
Tonga, will play the Pool D winners.
But All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, whose 20-game unbeaten run
ended on Saturday, was taking nothing for granted.
"If you don't respect somebody you are going to get your rear
end spanked. No-one has a God-given right to get through the
France have been pooled with one of the southern "big three"
only once in eight World Cups and coach Philippe Saint-Andre
was happy with his European group.
"We're not in the pool of death," he said.
The World Cup will get under way on September 18, 2015, with
the final to be held at Twickenham on October 31.