Rugby union: England avoided New Zealand in today’s World Cup 2015 draw, but nonetheless have a tough task to reach the knockout stages having been drawn against Wales and Australia in their opening pool.
Stuart Lancaster’s men, the tournament’s hosts, were thrown into Group A, which will also include two qualifiers, Oceania 1 (probably Fiji) and the play-off winner, possibly Uruguay.
Ireland face France, Italy, Americas 1 and Europe 2 in Pool D, while Scotland are in with Pool B rivals South Africa, Samoa, Asia 1 and Americas 2. The All Blacks, meanwhile, look to have secured the easiest pool, being bracketed alongside Argentina, Tonga, Europe 1 and Africa 1.
The tournament kicks off on September 18 2015, with Twickenham staging the final six weeks later.
It is the first time that England have been drawn in the same World Cup group as Wales, who 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.
After the draw, England coach Stuart Lancaster said: “It is definitely a pretty tough pool. To win the World Cup you have to win big games and I have got a huge amount of respect for what Wales have done recently.
“We know their squad pretty well, it is a young side and a lot of them will still be around in 2015. Australia have just beaten us and, if you look at the age and profile of their squad, they have got some young lads as well. We will look forward to it.”
The victors of England’s Pool A will play runners-up of Pool B in the quarter-finals and the runners up of Pool A will play the winner of Pool B.