England drawn with Australia and Wales
December 3, 2012
The next battle for the Webb Ellis Cup will take place in England in 2015 © Getty Images
England have been drawn against Six Nations rivals Wales and southern hemisphere giants Australia in the pool stages of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The tournament hosts discovered their fate at today's pool allocation draw at the Tate Modern art gallery in London with the two remaining places in their group set to be taken by two qualifiers - Oceania 1 (probably Fiji) and the final play-off winner, possibly Uruguay.
Defending champions New Zealand look to have secured the easiest pool having being bracketed alongside Argentina, Tonga and two further qualifiers - Europe 1 and Africa 1. France, beaten finalists in the 2011 World Cup, will tackle Ireland and Italy along qualifiers - Americas 1 and Europe 2. In the other pool, top seeds South Africa will line up alongside Samoa and Scotland as well as those sides that qualify as Asia 1 and Americas 2.
England, crowned 2003 world champions after they beat Australia in a gripping final, have never previously been drawn in the same World Cup group as Wales. Their last World Cup meeting was during the 2003 tournament in Brisbane, when England trailed at half-time before securing a tense quarter-final triumph. And the last time England and Australia found themselves in the same pool was at the inaugural World Cup 25 years ago.
Wales, World Cup semi-finalists last year, have paid a price for dropping to ninth in the International Rugby Board rankings following successive autumn defeats against Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
It meant they were in the third band of countries for today's draw, increasing the prospect of a punishing group, and so it has proved. Despite their recent struggles, though, Wales will be confident they can progress to the quarter-finals, having won two Six Nations titles and Grand Slams during head coach Warren Gatland's reign.
Scotland, whose coach Andy Robinson resigned last month following autumn losses to the All Blacks, have their work cut out in Pool B. South Africa, the 1995 and 2007 world champions will be favourites to take the pool, but Samoa could easily pip the Scots for second spot and and a quarter-final place from a group that could also feature Japan and either America or Canada.
Ireland, meanwhile, will should feel reasonably pleased with the Pool D make-up, with their game against France likely to decide who finishes top. Italy will fancy their chances of upsetting the status quo, but they do not have a great World Cup record. The group is likely to be completed by America or Canada and one of Georgia, Russia and Romania.
New Zealand, the runaway Pool C favourites, will be wary of Rugby Championship rivals Argentina, yet Tonga, Europe 1 (probably Georgia and Russia) and Africa 1 (probably Namibia) provide no threat.
The eight pool places to be filled by qualifiers will be finalised by the end of 2014.
If the 2015 tournament follows its current seeding path, then the quarter-finals would see South Africa face England, New Zealand tackle Ireland, Australia meet Samoa and France take on Argentina.
Pool A: Australia, England, Wales, Oceania 1, Play-off winner.
Pool B: South Africa, Samoa, Scotland, Asia 1, Americas 2.
Pool C: New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga, Europe 1, Africa 1.
Pool D: France, Ireland, Italy, Americas 1, Europe 2.
At the draw it was also confirmed that the knockout phase structure will be the same as previous Rugby World Cups:
QF1: Winner Pool B v Runner-up Pool A
SF1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF2
Bronze Final: Loser SF1 v Loser SF2
Final: Winner SF1 v Winner SF2
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.