England drawn in 'group of death' against Wales and Australia for 2015 Rugby World Cup
England have been drawn against Wales and Australia in what is already being dubbed the 'group of death' at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Wales were the team to avoid from the third tier of seeds at today's draw at the Tate Modern gallery in London, yet hosts England have been drawn alongside them for the group stage of the competition, as well as the mighty Australia.
The group also comprises 'Oceania 1', expected to be Fiji and a play-off winner. The top two teams from the group of five will progress to the quarter-finals.
Scotland have been drawn against against Samoa & South Africa as well as two as yet determined sides.
Ireland are in a European dominated group comprising France, Italy, a qualifier from Europe and a qualifier from the Americas.
Reining world champions New Zealand will play Argentina and Tonga plus two undetermined sides.
The identities of the eight remaining qualifiers for the four five-team pools will be known at the end of the global qualifying process in 2014.
The tournament will run from September 18 to October 31, 2015, with Twickenham hosting the final.
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, South Africa and Tonga, 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: Play-off winner, Oceania 1, Wales, England & Australia
Pool B: Americas 2, Asia 1, Scotland, Samoa & South Africa
Pool C: Africa 1, Europe 1, Tonga, Argentina & New Zealand
Pool D: Europe 2, Americas 1, Italy, Ireland & France
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