Joe Schmidt will be hoping Steve Hansen doesn’t bear a grudge when the All Blacks head coach helps pull Ireland’s 2019 World Cup pool opponents out of the bag during today’s draw in Kyoto, Japan.
Ireland’s historic first victory over New Zealand in Chicago last November helped lift Schmidt’s men in green into the top four in the world rankings and their final-round Six Nations win over England in March assured them of a place among the top-four seeds in Band One of this morning’s draw alongside Hansen’s reigning world champions, the English and Australia.
As coach of the 2015 winners Hansen will be responsible for drawing out one of the five bands of four teams with all eyes on any potential “pools of death”.
Scotland, France, South Africa and Wales lie in wait among the second seeds with Argentina, losing semi-finalists last time out, the team to avoid in Band Three, also comprising Italy, Georgia and Japan.
Bands four and five will feature countless possibilities as they are made up of future qualifiers from Oceania, Americas, Europe and Africa but number the United States, Fiji and Samoa and Tonga among the potential participants.
That means there is the possibility of Ireland being drawn in a pool alongside Wales, Argentina, Samoa and the US Eagles.
Also officiating at the draw with Hansen will be World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, Japanese rugby legend Yoshihiro Sakata and one of the host country’s greatest Olympians, Saori Yoshida.
Hansen will have an earlier role in the ceremonies, officially handing over the Webb Ellis Cup to the world governing body, who will in turn present the trophy to tournament organisers Japan 2019.
The draw itself was scheduled to get under way at 9am Irish time, with Schmidt one of 11 of the 12 head coaches from the qualified countries present in Kyoto. Only Scotland’s incoming head coach Gregor Townsend is absent as he concludes business with Glasgow Warriors.
The ceremony was due to be broadcast live on Sky Sports News and streamed on rugbyworldcup.com as well as World Rugby’s digital platforms on Facebook Live, Twitter and YouTube.
Once the pools have been drawn, the organising committee will then sit down with World Rugby to allocate dates, venues and kick-off times for the fixtures with a full schedule of matches expected by the end of the year.
The 12 directly qualified teams are those that finished in the top three of each RWC 2015 pool and are (in each relevant band):
Band One: New Zealand, England, Australia, Ireland
Band Two: Scotland, Wales, South Africa, France
Band Three: Argentina, Japan, Georgia, Italy
Band Four: Oceania 1, Americas 1, Europe 1, Africa 1
Band Five: Oceania 2, Americas 2, Play-Off Winner (between Europe 2 and Oceania 3), Repechage Winner.
Meanwhile, the South African government has lifted a ban on the country’s rugby union hosting international events after it made progress improving racial diversity, paving the way for a 2023 Rugby World Cup bid.
The government imposed the ban last year having pushed for the country’s main sports to create more opportunities for black players and administrators more than two-decades after the end of white-minority rule.
The ban also applied to athletics, cricket and netball.
“I would like to congratulate rugby, cricket and netball on their improved scores, you were clearly willing to walk the extra mile,” Sports Minister Thulas Nxesi said in a statement issued by South African Rugby.
“Their right to bid for and host major sporting events, which was revoked before, is hereby immediately reinstated.”
Last week Nxesi visited SARU headquarters and said hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2023 would leave a lasting legacy.
“If I were to draw on my experiences from the Soccer World Cup in 2010, in terms of nation building, we saw both black and white in the stands supporting Bafana Bafana and enjoying the football.
“The legacy of that tournament, amongst black and white, is very important,” he added.
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