Ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup which is being held in Japan, the draw for the pool stages took place in the Kyoto State Guest House earlier this morning.
Ireland were in band 1 and therefore avoided the likes of back-to-back World Champions New Zealand, as well as England and Australia. The bands in full were as follows,
- 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.
With band 5 the first to be picked and Ireland’s band 1 the last, there was a long wait for Joe Schmidt to see who his team would face in Japan in two years time. Prior to Band 1 being picked out, there was a clear disparity in the quality of the groups.
- Pool A: Scotland, Japan, Europe 1, Play-off winner
- Pool B: South Africa, Italy, Africa 1, Repechage winner
- Pool C: France, Argentina, Americas 1, Oceania 2
- Pool D: Wales, Georgia, Oceania 1, Americas 2
Despite the fact that Scotland overturned Ireland in the Six Nations earlier this year and that the tournament would be held in Japan, Schmidt would have been hoping to be drawn in Pool 1 and avoid South Africa, Wales and Argentina among others. As luck would have it, Ireland would indeed be drawn with the hosts in Pool A.
There should be a real sense that Ireland can go far in this tournament. With a crop of young talent coming through and a chance for Schmidt to experiment this summer with the Lions on tour, Ireland should be aiming high for Japan 2019.
Although nothing should be taken for granted, if Ireland can perform consistently and to the levels they’ve shown against New Zealand, England, South Africa and Australia over the past 12 months, there’s no reason why they cant compete for a maiden World Cup Triumph.
It promises to be a long wait until the RWC 2019.