Rugby Rugby

Scene set for Rugby World Cup draw

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LONDON, England December 3 – Hosts England and reigning champions New Zealand could find themselves paired in the same pool when the draw for the 2015 Rugby World Cup takes place at London’s Tate Modern gallery on Monday.

England’s stunning 38-21 win over New Zealand across London at Twickenham on Saturday may have ended the All Blacks’ 20-match unbeaten run but it was not enough for the 2015 hosts to secure a top four seeding.

Those places went instead to New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and France.

England will be in the second tier along with Ireland, Samoa and Argentina.

As a result, they could face New Zealand, who’ve always finished top of their pool at every World Cup since the inaugural edition in 1987, in the group stage in three years’ time.

Given that the top two in each of the four pools of five go through to the quarter-finals, a solitary pool loss need not be fatal to a team’s chances of reaching the knockout stages.

On the other hand, every World Cup-winning team has gone through the tournament unbeaten.

And Clive Woodward, England’s coach when they won the World Cup in 2003, said Sunday his country would be the one all the top four would want to avoid following their dramatic defeat of the All Blacks.

“It makes the draw fascinating, given England have just demolished New Zealand,” Woodward told the BBC.

“That one result will make the southern hemisphere teams sit up and say for once ‘we want to keep away from England’.”

By contrast, Wales’s last gasp 14-12 defeat by Australia in Cardiff on Saturday dropped them into the third tier along with Italy, Tonga and Scotland.

“I don’t think it bothers us,” said scrum-half Mike Phillips, a member of the Wales team that reached the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup in New Zealand after qualifying out of a pool also featuring South Africa and Samoa.

“The World Cup is a long way off, 2015. A lot can happen between now and then,” he added.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who will be involved in Monday’s draw, said he was delighted to see another major sports event — the 2015 World Cup final will take place at Twickenham — heading the way of the British capital following its successful staging of this year’s Olympic Games.

“London proved this summer that it is simply the best place in the world to stage international sport,” Johnson said.

“So it is fantastic that as host city for 2015 we have been given the honour of staging matches from another of the world’s largest sporting events, which will see top-flight competition return to London and the UK’s iconic venues so quickly after the 2012 Games.”

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