All eyes will turn to Paris on Monday, December 14 for the all-important pool draw for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The next major milestone on the road to the Springboks defending their World Cup title will take place virtually at the Palais Brongniart.
Twelve countries have automatically qualified for the next edition of the World Cup based on their top-three placings in each of the four pools at last year’s tournament.
WORLD RUGBY HAS USED RANKINGS AS OF JANUARY 1, 2020
Due to Covid-19 and the impact the pandemic has had on the sport in 2020, World Rugby has decided to base the seeds on the rankings as of January 1, 2020.
Therefore, those 12 countries, based on their rankings on New Year’s Day this year, have been placed into three bands of four teams each.
The identities of the eight remaining countries haven’t been determined as yet – and frankly don’t feature in terms of potential winners to be brutally honest.
The first band of countries is: South Africa (defending champions), beaten finalists England, third-place winners New Zealand and losers of that bronze medal match, Wales.
The second band contains Ireland, Australia, France and Japan, while the third group sees Scotland, Argentina, Fiji and Italy lumped together.
One team from each band will randomly be drawn into each pool.
ANYTHING CAN, AND NO DOUBT WILL, HAPPEN
So what’s the worst that could happen for Jacques Nienaber’s men?
Based on form today – rather than nearly 12 months ago – but also remembering that 2023 is still a while away and that anything can, and will, happen between now and then, the worst-case scenario appears to be:
The Springboks are drawn with France and Argentina.
That would mean, based on the current World Rugby rankings, the world’s top-ranked side (South Africa), would be in the same pool as the fourth (France) and eighth-best (Argentina).
France will without question be tough to beat at home, while Argentina are already showing improved form and have a number of players based in France and thus familiar with the grounds and conditions.
And let’s not forget that in a little under three years other potential pool opponents, assuming they qualify, like Georgia, Samoa and the USA may well have improved as well.
The draw will take place at 13:00 SA time.
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