Familiar rugby rivals to meet again

Familiar rugby rivals to meet again

PARIS • Hosts France will play three-time winners New Zealand in the standout match of the 2023 Rugby World Cup pool phase, after the draw was made yesterday.

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

Italy and two qualifiers, one from the Americas and another from Africa, make up Pool A.

Holders South Africa will face Ireland and 2003 champions England take on Japan, which hosted the previous World Cup last year, and Argentina, who beat New Zealand for the first time in their history last month.

“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.”

The Springboks will also go up against Scotland and a side from Asia-Pacific and another European nation in Pool B.

Wales, who lost to South Africa in last year’s semi-finals, are in Pool C with two-time Webb Ellis trophy winners Australia as well as Fiji, another European team and the winner of the final qualifying tournament.

A qualifier each from Oceania and the Americas round out a competitive-looking Pool D with England, Japan and Argentina.

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

Organisers also moved the event forward to be able to start selling tickets – which will be priced at €15 (S$24.30) for non-France matches and €30 for France games – in March, before ticket sales for the 2024 Paris Olympics begin in 2022.

    WORLD CUP 2023 DRAW

    POOL A

    New Zealand, France, Italy, Americas 1, Africa 1

    POOL B

    South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, Asia/Pacific 1, Europe 2

    POOL C

    Wales, Australia, Fiji, Europe 1, final qualifier winner

    POOL D

    England, Japan, Argentina, Oceania 1, Americas 2

    7

    Clashes between France and New Zealand in previous Rugby World Cups.

The dozen countries from the draw will be joined by eight qualifiers, with the final line-up known by next November.

While the next edition is nearly three years away, organisers have made plans to cover every eventuality, including the possibility Covid-19 may still be around then.

“If in 2023 we are still unsure if people will be back in stadiums, we will have bigger problems than the Rugby World Cup. We do have cancellation insurance in the event of a pandemic,” France 2023 chief executive officer Claude Atcher said.

However, the French government remains confident the quadrennial tournament will be played in a festive atmosphere.

Speaking at the ceremony, which was held at the former Paris Bourse, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “France is a rugby-loving country. We are preparing for this event at a very tough time.

“The nation is behind France. Everyone is suffering at the moment with us. The Covid-19 crisis is terrible. In 2023, we want to offer the best of France; the French way of life – friendliness, gastronomy, parties and culture.”

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS