The 2011 Rugby World Cup pool draw has taken place at a star-studded ceremony in central London.
England and Scotland have been drawn in the same group but both countries avoided hosts New Zealand. England, 2003 World Cup winners and 2007 runners-up, must overcome Scotland, Argentina, plus one other European country to emerge from qualifying and also a playoff winner.
England, though, look set to face the All Blacks in the quarter-finals unless they win their group. If they were to win their pool, they will face the runner-up in New Zealand's group that also features France and Tonga with two more qualifiers still to come from the Americas and Asia.
Wales have been drawn with reigning world champions South Africa, Fiji—the team that knocked them out of last year's Rugby World Cup—Oceania 1 (probably Samoa), and Africa 1.
Pool C sees Australia up against Ireland, Italy, and two further qualifiers from Europe and the Americas, respectively.
The draw could have been far crueler to England following their miserable autumn Test series in which Australia, South Africa and New Zealand racked up a total of 102 points in smashing Martin Johnson's men at Twickenham. And the emphasis will now be on England winning their group to set up a possible quarter-final showdown with France.
England and Scotland have met once before in World Cup history—a 1991 semi-final in Edinburgh that the red rose brigade shaded 9-6 before losing to Australia in the final. England's only previous World Cup meeting with Argentina came in South Africa 13 years ago and resulted in a hard-fought 24-18 success.
Scotland, world-ranked ninth to England's sixth, will not be too unhappy at the draw, given they could have been bracketed in the same pool as New Zealand and France.
The All Blacks' group, which also includes Tonga, Americas 1 and Asia 1, gives New Zealand a chance to avenge their shock 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat against Les Bleus in Cardiff.
Reigning Six Nations champions Wales were the only northern hemisphere side to beat Tri-Nations opposition this autumn, defeating Australia 21-18 in Cardiff on Saturday. And they could face the Wallabies in the 2011 quarter-finals, but to emerge from their group Wales must beat likely Pacific Islands rivals Fiji and Samoa.
Fiji's victory over Wales in Nantes 14 months ago ended Gareth Jenkins' reign as national coach, with New Zealander Warren Gatland then taking over and guiding them to a Six Nations title after just five games in charge. Samoa look set to be the Oceania qualifiers, with possibly Namibia completing Wales' group as Africa qualifiers.
But the Springboks, despite their world champion status, will not duly alarm Wales, who should have beaten them in Cardiff three weeks ago. Like Wales, Ireland proved 2007 World Cup flops, yet they have at least avoided their tournament nemesis Argentina, and will not be deterred by an appointment with Australia.
Italy, Europe 2 (possibly Georgia or Romania), and Americas 2 (possibly the USA) will complete Ireland's pool.
With the draw now completed for the 20-team tournament, organisers will press ahead with the match schedule, which they plan to announce in March. The draw was conducted by Rugby World Cup chairman Bernard Lapasset and Rugby World Cup New Zealand 2011 chairman Jock Hobbs.
Rugby World Cup 2011 Pool Draw:
- Pool A - New Zealand, France, Tonga, Americas 1, Asia 1
- Pool B - Argentina, England, Scotland, Europe 1, Play-off Winner
- Pool C - Australia, Ireland, Italy, Europe 2, Americas 2
- Pool D - South Africa, Wales, Fiji, Oceania 1, Africa 1
Quarter-final 1: Winner Pool B v Runner-up Pool A
Quarter-final 2: Winner Pool C v Runner-up Pool D
Quarter-final 3: Winner Pool A v Runner-up Pool B
Quarter-final 4: Winner Pool D v Runner-up Pool C
Semi-final 1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF2
Semi-final 2: Winner QF3 v Winner QF4
Bronze Final: Loser SF1 v Loser SF2
Final: Winner SF1 v Winner SF2