Australia will feature in the same pool as England and
Wales in the next World Cup. Photo Reuters
Australia, England and Wales face the toughest road to
Rugby World Cup glory in 2015, having been drawn in the pool of
Elsewhere the All Blacks and Springboks should coast through
untouched, while France and Ireland will meet in the fight
for a top seeding in Pool D.
But it is Pool A that remains most intriguing and will add
extra interest to the pool stages of 2015. Never before has a
World Cup featured three such highly touted teams in the same
2011 saw something of a pool of death with South Africa,
Wales and Samoa all placed together, while 2007 saw France,
Ireland and Argentina take the toughest road to the playoff
But to group together three teams who will have legitimate
ambitions to win the tournament is something that has never
happened before. It is a result of the poor form of Wales
over the autumn internationals, which has seen their world
Losses to Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia have
seen them find a place in the third tier of qualifiers and
meant they would be drawn with two of the top eight teams.
This immediately creates a situation where three top teams
will be drawn together and in a way shows the flaws in the
IRB's system. Why should it be form in the post-World Cup
year that determines the draw for the next tournament?
Particularly when most countries use this as a year to
rebuild, filling the gaps of the men who have left at the end
of the previous Cup.
One could argue that it is as good a time as any to use. But
it does seem to have the obvious flaw of teams often being at
their weakest in the four year cycle at this stage. The old
system used the rankings from the previous World Cup to
develop the draw. While this may have just as little
relevance, it at least shows the strength of each country at
their best, as every team will be aiming to peak for the
The current situation is made even more intriguing as each of
the three teams are being touted as potential winners of the
tournament. This is something that is usually reserved for
the All Blacks and perhaps one other.
But this time around there is more to consider. Wales have
plenty of quality young players who will still be around and
looking to build on their third placing in 2011. England also
have a bunch of youngsters who look good and showed what they
can do in their win over the All Blacks in the weekend. And
Australia too will be up there despite their poor form of
recent times; they have a lot of young players and were hit
hard by injury in 2012.
It must be remembered too that England will be playing on
home soil where they will be far harder to beat. Wales too
will not mind this, as they will be sure to have a huge
amount of support come across the border to watch them play.
And that leaves Australia, who often struggle against
European teams despite being the biggest threat to the often
unbeatable All Blacks. But in this situation it isn't
inconceivable that they won't make the quarterfinals.
Certainly it will turn the World Cup on it's head. But that
isn't the only intriguing factor of the draw.
The other pools should all go as planned.
The All Blacks will top theirs with relative ease, with
Argentina the favourites to edge an improving Tonga side for
the second spot.
Likewise the Springboks should go through, although may be
find Samoa a challenge and Scotland will be quietly
Pool D provides a fascinating match up where France will meet
Ireland, while Italy have also shown vast improvements over
the past month and could cause an upset.
The crossover matches though provide potential for a huge
upset. Should France finish second in their pool, they will
meet the All Blacks in the quarter finals. That's right,
another meeting between these two great rivals and another
chance for France to add to their already considerable
history of upsets against the world's top team.
They did it in 1999, again in 2007 and came oh so close to it
in 2011. It certainly wouldn't be out of the question.
But first the pool matches must be played and it could very
well be that the All Blacks end up playing Ireland in their
quarterfinal and avoid France until the final.
Whatever happens, you can rest assured this will be a World
Cup to remember.