December 6, 2021

Townsend facing ‘reality’ of Scotland’s World Cup draw

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Rugby World Cup 2023 draw puts England with Japan and Argentina in Pool D; Scotland and Ireland set to face the Springboks in Pool B; Wales will play Australia and Fiji in Pool C in a repeat of the 2019 draw; All Blacks and hosts France in Pool A along with Italy

Last Updated: 14/12/20 4:09pm

Gregor Townsend says Scotland have been drawn in the toughest group Gregor Townsend says Scotland have been drawn in the toughest group

Gregor Townsend says Scotland have been drawn in the toughest group

Gregor Townsend says “reality” is setting in with Scotland’s draw for Rugby World Cup 2023, while All Blacks coach Ian Foster says it will be “special” to play against hosts France.

The draw took place on Monday, with Ireland and Scotland set to face defending champions South Africa, while France facing three-time champions New Zealand as well as Italy.

Wales will take on Australia and Fiji in the pool stages for a third consecutive World Cup, and England have arguably the most favourable draw alongside Japan and Argentina.

Pool A (New Zealand, France, Italy)

France and New Zealand have offered up some of the World Cup classics over the years, including one of the best knockout matches of all time in the semi-finals in 1999 as Les Bleus came from behind to beat the tournament favourites.

France then knocked New Zealand out at the quarter-final stage eight years later, but the All Blacks claimed revenge in the 2011 final.

Ian Foster has had a tough start to life as All Blacks coach after losses to Argentina and Australia this year Ian Foster has had a tough start to life as All Blacks coach after losses to Argentina and Australia this year

Ian Foster has had a tough start to life as All Blacks coach after losses to Argentina and Australia this year

“The World Cup’s a very special event and there’s no such thing as an easy pool,” New Zealand coach Ian Foster said.

“To have France in our pool is going to be special, it’s a country with a lot of history and we’ve watched in admiration as they rebuilt their team; they’re building something very special for 2023.

“We’ve got a lot of history of playing Italy. We missed out on playing them at the last World Cup because of a hurricane so in some ways it’s going to be a special occasion to play them.”

France coach Fabien Galthie said: “We think that the team will be ready for the competition. We know that New Zealand is going to be one of the favourites. They have won the competition three times.

France are already building momentum under had coach Fabien Galthie France are already building momentum under had coach Fabien Galthie

France are already building momentum under had coach Fabien Galthie

“To play at home is going to be a fantastic challenge for each player who plays for France. It’s going to be a big motivation… We will be ready to play our best rugby. There will be pressure but we’ll have the freedom to play our best.”

Italy coach Franco Smith said: “Obviously, New Zealand will be a big challenge but it’s also a big inspiration for our guys. France are hosting it, so we really have the odds stacked against us.”

Pool B (South Africa, Ireland, Scotland)

Incredibly, Ireland have never played the Springboks at a World Cup before, and it’s set to be a big game in 2023 as the defending champions take on an Ireland side hoping to become the first to progress past the quarter-final stage.

Scotland will be out to avenge their 2019 pool-stage exit, though coach Gregor Townsend says the “reality” of the task at hand is a hard one to ignore.

Andy Farrell says the 'juices are flowing' after getting Scotland and the Springboks in the World Cup draw Andy Farrell says the 'juices are flowing' after getting Scotland and the Springboks in the World Cup draw

Andy Farrell says the ‘juices are flowing’ after getting Scotland and the Springboks in the World Cup draw

“There’s an excitement when you see the draw and look ahead to Paris in three years’ time and then there’s the reality of who you are going to play against. I believe it’s the toughest group,” Townsend said.

“On current world rankings, Ireland are fifth, South Africa are the world champions and first and we are ranked seventh, which means it’s going to be very competitive.”

Ireland coach Andy Farrell said: “There’s nothing like a Rugby World Cup draw to get the juices flowing, so super excited. We’ll have to play some good rugby to get out of the group.

“I suppose we know where the journey is heading to now though there’s a few gaps that need to be filled in because of COVID-19.”

Jacques Nienaber has taken over from Rassie Erasmus as head coach of the Springboks Jacques Nienaber has taken over from Rassie Erasmus as head coach of the Springboks

Jacques Nienaber has taken over from Rassie Erasmus as head coach of the Springboks

South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber said: “I must say I’m quite excited. We will really have to be on top of our game just to get out of this Pool. It’s funny to think one of South Africa, Ireland or Scotland might not make it out to the playoff stages.

“It’s going to be a tough pool and I’m very much looking forward to it.”

Pool C (Wales, Australia, Fiji)

Wales, Australia and Fiji are no strangers to each other after facing off in the pool stage of the 2015 and 2019 editions.In fact, you have to go back to 2003 for the last time Wales didn’t play Fiji in the group stage of a World Cup.”It’s a similar pool but in another country, but certainly very excited,” Wales coach Wayne Pivac said. “Obviously, Fiji have just been in the Nations Cup and certainly I’ve got an affinity there having coached Fiji.

“It does give us now a focal point and obviously Australia is going to be a big challenge.”

Australia coach Dave Rennie said: “We’re in our infancy you might say. We’ve got some good young kids coming through and we’ve learned a lot about each other in the last weeks.

“We’ve got a lot to build on but obviously excited for the World Cup. It’s a long way off but the draw makes it a bit of a reality now.”

Dave Rennie says his side are still in their 'infancy' after he took charge of his first Test as head coach this year Dave Rennie says his side are still in their 'infancy' after he took charge of his first Test as head coach this year

Dave Rennie says his side are still in their ‘infancy’ after he took charge of his first Test as head coach this year

Fiji coach Vern Cotter said: “It’s actually quite similar to the 2019 Pool, so we will prepare as best we can. I think we sit in the middle of this pool and there’s teams underneath us that were shining at the 2019 World Cup. You’ve got to be very careful of everybody.”

Pool D (England, Japan, Argentina)

England will be satisfied after being drawn with Argentina and Eddie Jones’ former team Japan. The Brave Blossoms were the darlings of the last World Cup and were everyone’s second side, but they will not pose the same threat as the other teams in the second band – Ireland, France and Australia – would have.

Similarly, the Pumas made history this year by beating the All Blacks, but it’s a side England will certainly back themselves to beat.

Eddie Jones will be pleased with England's draw for the World Cup Eddie Jones will be pleased with England's draw for the World Cup

Eddie Jones will be pleased with England’s draw for the World Cup

“It’s probably the most contrasting pool in terms of style and philosophy and playing element and that’s what makes it the most interesting,” Jones said.

“We’ve got Argentina, who have a great World Cup record, and Japan, who are the most improved team in the game. It’s going to be tough as we don’t get many chances to play against teams like Japan so we are going to have to be really well prepared. And then you have the contrast of Argentina, who played probably the most physical game of rugby in 2020 against the All Blacks.”

Australian Jones gave a nod of respect to Tonga, potential members of Pool D along with an Americas qualifier, but his face really lit up when discussing Japan. His mother is Japanese and he coached them to their famous victory over South Africa in the 2015 World Cup Pool stages.

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Mario Ledesma was emotional after Argentina beat New Zealand for the first time

Mario Ledesma was emotional after Argentina beat New Zealand for the first time

Jones laughed off the suggestion that he might be feeling emotional at the time of the match in 2023 but said he was delighted that clips of Japan had featured heavily in the organisers pre-draw highlights video.

“I’m just so pleased they’re doing well,” he said.

Argentina coach Mario Ledesma said: “The pools are all even. We always have to be in the third place in the pool. That’s very difficult. Now that we know our pool we have to concentrate on what follows.”

England captain Owen Farrell said: “It’s a great pool. If you look across them all, they’re all tough pools, but the way that Japan and Argentina are going at the minute, obviously it’s going to be a tough pool.”