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 won’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.
TO NOTE: At the official draw, one team from each of the five bands will randomly be drawn into each of the final four pools (A, B, C and D) for the tournament itself.
ANYTHING CAN, AND NO DOUBT WILL, HAPPEN
So, having dealt with the WORST-CASE SCENARIO, what’s the best possible outcome 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 best-case scenario appears to be:
The Springboks are drawn with Japan and Italy.
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 10th (Japan) and 14th-best (Italy).
Yes, yes we know Japan shocked the world – and the Springboks – in Brighton in 2015. But miracles don’t happen that frequently and history certainly won’t repeat itself in 2023.
And Eddie Jones no longer coaches Japan.
Italy have fallen off a cliff, despite Franco Smith now in charge. They’ll present a challenge, but nothing that will see them topple the Springboks.
Sure there’ll be those who will argue that the Springboks need to be tested in the pool phase. But at the risk of being drawn in a ‘group of death’ and crashing out before the playoffs? Me thinks not.
The draw will take place at 13:00 SA time.
Don’t miss it!
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