England, Wales and Australia in same World Cup pool
LONDON (AFP) –
England, Wales and Australia were all drawn together in a “group of death” when the draw for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England was made on Monday.
The trio all found themselves in Pool A at a pool draw for what will be the eighth World Cup, conducted at London’s Tate Modern gallery.
This means one of the sport’s traditional powers will be knocked out before the quarter-finals, with only the top two teams from each of the four pools going through to the knockout stages.
Wales were beaten 14-12 by Australia, world champions in 1991 and 1999, in Cardiff on Saturday — their eighth straight defeat by the Wallabies.
England are currently in confident mood after their 38-21 victory over reigning world champions New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday.
However, that win followed defeats by Australia (20-14) and South Africa (16-15) at Twickenham last month.
The Springbok loss was especially painful as it condemned England to fifth place in the world rankings.
That left them outside the top four who were the leading seeds for Monday’s draw, with New Zealand in top spot followed by South Africa, Australia and France.
England, world champions in 2003 after they beat Australia, 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 won a tense quarter-final after trailing at half-time.
“It’s a pretty tough pool,” said England coach Stuart Lancaster. “Wales, I’ve got a huge amount of respect for what they’ve done recently.
“Australia have just beaten us and are an incredibly competitive nation. We’ll look forward to it in a few years’ time,” he added.
Meanwhile bullish Wales boss Warren Gatland said a tough draw could work in his side’s favour, as it had in New Zealand last year when they reached the semi-finals after emerging from a pool featuring South Africa — who beat them 17-16 in Wellington — Samoa and Fiji
“We put ourselves in this position,” said Gatland.
“Our experience of 2011 is that if you come out of a tough group, it sets you up for the quarter-finals and semi-finals,” the New Zealander added.
“The tougher the group, the better.”
Every team that has won the World Cup has gone through the tournament unbeaten but Gatland added a ‘soft’ draw had frequently worked against the All Blacks in previous tournaments.
“If you look at New Zealand, often they don’t get tested enough in the pool stages and teams sometimes field a second (string) side against them, and then they (New Zealand) often come undone.”
Wallaby flanker David Pocock said Australia would look forward to renewing a “rivalry that runs deep” with England.
“I’d never really experienced the magnitude of it until 2008 when we were over here and there was a lot of commentary comparing the English or Great Britain (Olympic) medal tally to that of the Australians.
“To play them (England), in the pools, there will be a lot of hype around that game and it’s one you look forward to as a player.”
The All Blacks, also the inaugural 1987 champions, were drawn in a Pool C with Argentina, Tonga and two as yet unqualified teams in Europe 1 and Africa 1.
It looked a kind draw, but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said: “If you don’t respect somebody you are going to get your rear-end spanked.
“No one has a God-given right to go through to the quarter-finals.”
South Africa, World Cup winners on home soil in 1995 and in France in 2007, were in Pool B with Samoa, Scotland, Asia 1 and Americas 2.
“Our aim was to be in the first band of teams and we achieved that,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“To us it doesn’t matter who we are drawn against, because to win the World Cup, you have to beat the best teams out there.”
France, three times losing finalists, including in New Zealand last year, were in a Pool D with a strong Six Nations bias as it also Ireland and Italy, as well as the still-to-be-decided Americas 1 and Europe 2.
But it was as favourable draw as France could have hoped for, a point not lost on coach Philippe Saint-Andre, who said: “It’s not the pool of death.”
The eight remaining teams will come from a series of global qualifying matches that started in Mexico in March and will culminate in 2014.
If the 2015 World Cup were to follow its current seeding path, the quarter-finals would see South Africa play England, New Zealand face Ireland, Australia up against Samoa and France take on Argentina.
The World Cup will run from September 18 to October 31, with the final at Twickenham.