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New Zealand beat France at the 2011 Rugby World Cup final © WORLD RUGBY/AFP Aurelien MEUNIER

Rugby

All Blacks face France in 2023 Rugby World Cup pool stages

PARIS, France, Dec 14 – Host nation France will play three-time winners New Zealand in a mouthwatering 2023 Rugby World Cup pool game, after the draw was made in Paris on Monday.

The sides have met each other seven times in World Cups, including in the 1987 and 2011 finals with the All Blacks winning on both occasions.

England take on Japan, who hosted the last World Cup in 2019, and Argentina, who beat New Zealand for the first time in their history in November.

A qualifier each from Oceania and the Americas round out a competitive-looking Pool D.

“It’s a great pool to be a part of,” England captain Owen Farrell said. “Obviously with the way that Japan and Argentina are going at the minute, some of the rugby that has been played over the last few years by them both, obviously it’s going to be a tough pool.”

World Cup holders South Africa will face Ireland as well as Scotland and an outfit from Asia/Pacific and a further European nation in Pool B.

“It’s exciting, really, to know who your RWC pool opponents will be for the 2023 tournament in France,” Springboks captain Siya Kolisi said.

“For now, we have to turn our attention to the massive challenge the British and Irish Lions will bring next year – there is huge anticipation, both at home and in the UK, for what promises to be another memorable Lions series in South Africa,” he added.

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Wales, who lost to the Springboks in the 2019 semi-finals, are in Pool C with two-time Webb Ellis trophy holders Australia as well as Fiji, a European team and the winner of the final qualifying tournament.

Italy and two qualifiers, one from the Americas and another from Africa, make up the rest of Pool A alongside the All Blacks and France.

– Concussion ‘example’ –

The draw was held days after a host of former internationals said they were planning legal action against the sport’s authorities over the result of concussion.

The planned legal action targets World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union, for “failure to protect (the claimants) from the risks caused by concussions”.

World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte said the global body was a leading example in the field across spors federations.

World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte coached France to knock-out wins over New Zealand in 1999 and eight years later © AFP / FRANCK FIFE

“We are a model union in terms of research, innovation and mastering this area,” Laporte said in a press conference afterwards.

“A lot of other sports want to do like rugby with our Head Injury Assessment protocol. It’s a major subject. The priority is the health and safety of our players.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, seeding levels for the tournament draw were based on the world rankings on January 1, 2020 instead of after the autumn internationals as originally intended.

The dozen countries from the draw will be joined by eight qualifiers, with the final lineup known by November 22.

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