The draw for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan has been made with a number of the game's biggest names drawn together.
Here's a pool-by-pool look at what to expect:
Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Europe 1, Play-off winner
Ireland and Scotland will meet in the Rugby World Cup for just the second time after they were pooled together in 1991, but all eyes will be on tournament hosts Japan, who are well in with causing another upset. Japan will open up the 2019 tournament against one of their pool opposition, with the quintet likely to be completed by Romania as Europe’s top qualifier and the play-off winner – currently likely to be either Tonga or Spain – but they will have high hopes of taking down either Ireland or Scotland to repeat their famous 2015 victory over South Africa.
With the pool winner set to face either New Zealand or South Africa in the quarter-finals – and the runner-up facing the daunting task of playing whoever tops pool B – topping Pool A will be crucial to avoiding the All Blacks, should they win their group. But the one positive is that they will face significantly weaker sides in the pool, whoever makes the cut.
New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Africa 1, Repechage 1
What a disastrous draw for Italy. Coming off the back of a winless Six Nations campaign, Conor O’Shea’s mood will not have improved at all after the Rugby world Cup draw. The thought of facing the All Blacks and the Springboks will be a daunting one, but at lease Italy can draw on their maiden victory over South Africa last autumn and must use that to build a squad mentality that is capable of shooting down one of the Southern Hemisphere giants. Namibia are likely to join the trio as Africa’s representative, while the repechage last time out proved to be South America’s Uruguay, who would be a good bet to make it through once again.
The reigning champions will have eyes for top spot only, and should their campaign go as planned, they will take on the runners-up from Pool A before taking on either the winner of Pool C or the runner-up in Pool D in the semi-finals that, according to the current rankings, will be England and Wales.
England, France, Argentina, Americas 1, Oceania 2
Not the draw England will have wanted to see as they once again find themselves taking on the strongest team in band three in the form of Argentina, a side who have reached the semi-finals in two of the last three World Cups and have displayed a fantastic calibre on the biggest stage. France may be the weakest team in band two that England could have pulled, but they showed in the Six Nations that they look to be onto something with Guy Noves as they secured their first top-three finish in seven years.
The two teams likely to join them are Samoa and the United States, sides shown that they are capable of making life difficult for the stronger teams, but it should come down to a straight shootout between the top three nations and, if Eddie Jones has his way, England will be clear in top spot. But 2015 shows it’s never that simple...
Australia, Wales, Georgia, Oceania 1, Americas 2
A much improved Australia side secured a band one spot this time around, but will have familiar company in Japan as they are paired with Wales once again. Both teams will be relieved to see Georgia, not England, with them this time around though, and it could well be that Georgia’s heyday is over by 2019, given their talismanic captain Mamuka Gorgodze has just retired from international rugby and they actually lost the Rugby Europe Championship this year to Romania.
Fiji are on course to seal the top spot in the Oceanic qualification section, while Canada are likely to complete the group and the draw unless they can defeat the USA in a two-leg play-off. This should prove to be the most simple group with the Wallabies and Wales making it through unscathed, although how they survive four rather brutal matches will determine how they get on in the latter stages, with neither likely to be keen to finish second in the pool and face England in the last eight.Reuse content