Rugby union comment: Wales's indifferent autumn series, losing all four games to Argentina, an improved Samoa, New Zealand and Australia, left them in the third tier of seeded teams and they have been grouped with England and Australia, plus two other teams that are yet to be decided.
Welsh Rugby Union chief Roger Lewis has cheekily suggested that the England versus Wales Pool One game be played at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, which is one of the tournament venues.
Tournament organisers England Rugby 2015, an organisation totally independent of the RFU, are in charge of the fixture schedule, which will be revealed in March 2013.
This is undoubtedly the most difficult pool as the Oceania qualifiers will also be in Pool One and this is likely to be an extremely competitive Fiji plus the eventual play-off winner.
England as hosts of the 2015 competition will want to play their match against Wales at Twickenham, where Wales’s record over the last 20 years is not impressive although their last performance there in February produced a 19-12 victory.
Wales’s coach Warren Gatland made the salient point that every World Cup-winning side has gone through the tournament unbeaten and that a “soft draw” had often worked against the All Blacks in previous tournaments.
He also suggested that England and Wales would be favourites to progress from that group, despite Australia beating both England and Wales in the autumn series.
Of course there are another three years to wait before the tournament begins and there will be different teams and considerations at that time.
Nevertheless England’s 38-21 win against New Zealand on Saturday has given them confidence and self-belief to win against any side in the world.
It was also good for world rugby in the sense that All Blacks’ complete domination of world rugby over recent years is not ever assured.
World Cup Pool Two sees Scotland joined by Samoa and South Africa. This is probably the best news for Scottish rugby in recent times after autumn losses to New Zealand (22-51), South Africa (10-21) and Fiji (15-21) led to the resignation of coach Andy Robinson and a wider realisation that improvements in their summer performances in the southern hemisphere had not been built upon.
It is desperately difficult to see where Scottish rugby goes at this point, though they do have players such as Richie Gray, David Denton and Tim Visser who are true British & Irish Lions’ candidates but are not getting the opportunity to properly represent their qualities.
Pool Three sees New Zealand having to contend with Argentina and Tonga. In Pool Four, Ireland join France and Italy and can be quite happy with their position as it stands. Although they lost narrowly to South Africa, the Irish hammered a tiring Argentinian outfit 46-24, scoring seven tries to two against the new southern hemisphere Championship contenders.
This will give them huge confidence for their opening Six Nations encounter against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on the February 2.
What this World Cup draw has done is focused our attention totally on the international scene when perhaps we should be looking closer at the European Cup that enters its third round on this coming weekend.
There is no rest for the players and hopefully injuries will not be widespread.
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