THE BRISBANE Experience, as England's tourists now euphemistically refer to last weekend's 76-0 Test walloping in Australia, has left Clive Woodward in no doubt as to the perils of playing rugby with the southern hemisphere big boys. Depressingly for the national coach, next year's World Cup is likely to prove more intimidating.
Leo Williams, the chairman of Rugby World Cup, released details of the tournament draw yesterday and as expected, England will share a group with New Zealand. If they fail to beat the All Blacks at Twickenham in mid-October 1999, they will condemn themselves not only to an extra quarter- final "play-off'' - probably against the supremely physical Western Samoa - but to the hardest imaginable route through the knock-out phase.
The draw indicates that the winners of Pool B will face either the Scots or another of the Pacific island sides in the last eight and the French in the semi-finals. By the starkest of contrasts, the runners-up will almost certainly face South Africa, the world champions, in Paris at the quarter-final stage and, if they survive, go on to face the Wallabies in a semi-final match at Twickenham.
"I think I'd prefer to win the group," said Woodward last night as he prepared his side for today's tough encounter with New Zealand A in Hamilton.
Before they turn their thoughts to the tournament proper, England must negotiate a two-match qualifying interlude this autumn. Romania and the Netherlands are their likeliest opponents. The Wallabies must also go through a qualifying procedure, but their rivals are rather more of a challenge: Western Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.
Wales, the host nation for next year's showpiece, will kick off against the leading American qualifier, in all likelihood Argentina, in Cardiff on 1 October. The final will take place 37 days later after 41 matches involving 20 countries and four English grounds - Twickenham, Welford Road in Leicester, the McAlpine Stadium in Huddersfield and Bristol City's football arena at Ashton Gate - will be in use.
ENGLAND (v New Zealand A today): T Beim (Sale); M Moore (Sale), N Beal (Northampton), J Baxendell (Sale), D Chapman (Richmond); J Lewsey (Bristol), M Dawson (Northampton, capt); T Windo (Gloucester), P Greening (Gloucester), W Green (Wasps), R Fidler (Gloucester), D Sims (Gloucester), B Clarke (Richmond), P Sanderson (Sale), S Ojomoh (Gloucester). Replacements: S Potter (Leicester), A King (Wasps), P Richards (London Irish), L Moody (Leicester), D Grewcock (Saracens), D Crompton (Richmond), G Shuter (Saracens). 1999 World cup draw Qualifying matches
Pool A: Saturday 2 October: Europe 4 v Repechage 2 (Galashiels, 3pm); Sunday 3 October: Europe 3 (Scotland) v South Africa (Murrayfield, 5pm); Friday 8 October: Europe 3 (Scotland) v Repechage 2 (Murrayfield, 4pm); Sunday 10 October: South Africa v Europ e 4 (Murrayfield, 5pm); Friday 15 October: South Africa v Repechage 2 (Glasgow, 5pm); Saturday 16 October: Europe 3 (Scotland) v Europe 4 (Murrayfield, 3pm). Pool B: Saturday 2 October: Europe 2 (England) v Europe 5 (Twickenham, 5pm); Sunday 3 October: New Zealand v Repechage 1 (Bristol, 3pm); Saturday 9 October: Europe 2 (England) v New Zealand (Twickenham, 4.30pm); Sunday 10 October: Europe 5 v Repechage 1 (Leicester, 7pm); Thursday 14 October: New Zealand v Europe 5 (Huddersfield, 1pm); Friday 15 October: Europe 2 (England) v Repechage 1 (Twickenham, 1pm). Pool C: Friday 1 October: Pacific 2 v Africa 1 (Beziers, 9pm); Saturday 2 October: France v America 2 (Beziers, 2pm); Friday 8 October: France v Africa 1 (Bordeaux, 9pm); Saturday 9 October: Pacific 2 v America 2 (Bordeaux, 1.30pm); Thursday 14 October: America 2 v Africa 1 (Toulouse, 8.30pm); Saturday 16 October: France v Pacific 2 (Toulouse, 2pm). Pool D: Friday 1 October: Wales v America 1 (Cardiff, 3pm); Sunday 3 October: Pacific 3 v Asia 1 (Wrexham, 1pm); Saturday 9 October: Wales v Asia 1 (Cardiff, 2.30pm); Sunday 10 October: America 1 v Pacific 3 (Llanelli, 1pm); Thursday 14 October: Wales v Pacific 3 (Cardiff, 3pm); Saturday 16 October: America 1 v Asia 1 (Cardiff, 7pm). Pool E: Saturday 2 October: Europe 1 (Ireland) v America 3 (Dublin, 7pm); Sunday 3 October: Pacific 1 v Europe 6 (Belfast, 7pm); Saturday 9 October: America 3 v Europe 6 (Dublin, 7pm); Sunday 10 October: Europe 1 (Ireland) v Pacific 1 (Dublin, 3pm);Thur sday 14 October: Pacific 1 v America 3 (Limerick, 5pm); Friday 15 October: Europe 1 (Ireland) v Europe 6 (Dublin, 7pm). Quarter-final play-offs
Wednesday 20 October: Runner-up B v Runner-up C (H), (Twickenham, 1pm); Runner-up A v Runner-up D (G) (Murrayfield, 3.30pm); Runner-up E v 3rd best (F) (Lens, 7pm). Quarter-finals
Saturday 23 October: Winner D v Winner E (M) (Cardiff, 3pm); Sunday 24 October: Winner A v Winner H (J) (Paris, 2pm); Sunday 24 October: Winner B v Winner G (K) (Murrayfield, 3.30); Winner C v Winner F (L) (Dublin, 6pm). semi-finals
Saturday 30 October: Winner J v Winner M (Twickenham, 3pm); Sunday 31 October: Winner K v Winner L (Twickenham, 3pm). Third place play-off: Thursday 4 November: Play-off between losing semi-finalists (Cardiff, 8pm). final
Saturday 6 November (Cardiff, 3pm).
* All kick-off times given as local times. * If Ireland, England and Scotland qualify, they will occupy positions Europe 1, Europe 2 and Europe 3 respectively.
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