England, Wales to be avoided in RWC draw
The Wallabies will be hoping to avoid rising England and faltering Six Nations champions Wales when the 2015 Rugby World Cup draw is held early Tuesday morning (AEDT).
Australia pulled off grinding and somewhat fortunate wins over the English and Welsh in the past three weeks – to guarantee a top pool seeding – but want neither nation drawn alongside them in three years time.
All will be revealed when the International Rugby Board holds its pool allocation draw at 2am in London, the scene of the next RWC final.
Ranked No.3 in the world, the Wallabies are in band one on the IRB rankings with defending champions New Zealand, South Africa and France also to be top seeds.
Despite England’s dominant 38-21 victory over the All Blacks on the weekend, the hosts remain the game’s fifth-ranked nation and stand out as the strongest second-band team, ahead of Ireland, Samoa and Argentina.
With home support and a young, attacking team, Stuart Lancaster’s men are tipped to be a major contender and 2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward rightly says none of the top sides want to meet them in pool play.
“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’.”
Sidelined Wallabies captain James Horwill stressed home ground advantage would make England a more dangerous prospect.
“When any team plays at home in a World Cup that’s an advantage for them … you saw that last time with New Zealand,” he told AAP.
While the Wallabies won’t fear Wales, whoever draws them will automatically find themselves in the “pool of death” as three leading nations will be fighting for two quarter-final spots.
The Red Dragons went unbeaten through the Six Nations just eight months ago but have slipped to ninth in the world on the back of seven straight losses.
Four of those have come in tight matches against Australia, including two heart-breaking last-gasp defeats with Mike Harris kicking truly in Melbourne and Kurtley Beale scoring with 23 seconds left in Cardiff.
“It shows there isn’t much difference between the top nations – they were very close to making the World Cup final last year,” Horwill said.
“Things haven’t fallen their way this year and it also shows you can’t read too much into (World Cup) form this far out.”
Italy, Tonga and Scotland round out band three with Wales, while minnow qualifiers will complete the 20-strong field which is divided into four pools of five.© AAP 2014