Rugby World Cup 2023: All Blacks drawn in same pool as hosts France

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 15 Dec 2020, 10:04AM
Photo / PhotoSport
Photo / PhotoSport

Rugby World Cup 2023: All Blacks drawn in same pool as hosts France

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 15 Dec 2020, 10:04AM

The All Blacks have been drawn with hosts France for Rugby World Cup 2023.

The three-time World Cup winners will also play Italy and two yet-to-be-determined qualifiers Americas 1 and Africa 1, likely USA and Namibia, in Pool A.

In other groups, Pool B pits world champions South Africa against Six Nations sides Ireland and Scotland while Australia, Wales and Fiji will share the same group just like they did at the 2019 World Cup.

The final group, Pool D has 2019 finalists England up against Japan and Argentina.

A New Zealand-France game evokes so many memories — the 1987 and 2011 finals, both won by the All Blacks; the dramatic 1999 semifinal and 2007 quarterfinal matches, both won by Les Tricolores.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster said playing the hosts will be a "huge challenge".

"You can just see that France are really building a team at the moment of great depth. You can see that all their planning in around 2023. We'll be expecting a vibrant French team in a country that love their rugby. We know they'll have massive support behind them.

"But that's what makes World Cups so special, those sort of games. And they're games that we thrive on. That we look forward to. We know that if you're not at your best, you're going to struggle."

"To play France in France at their World Cup is something we can look forward to greatly over the next two or three years," Foster added.

Inside the Palais Brongniart in Paris, there were gasps when they were paired again at the draw.

The exact match schedule will only be finalized in February, following consultation with French team officials, but France coach Fabien Galthie wants his team to meet New Zealand in the first game.

"Why not?" Galthie said. "They're a beautiful team. Everyone in rugby loves New Zealand, the All Blacks. It would be so exciting."

The All Blacks and France have been grouped just once, at the 2011 tournament, when New Zealand were the hosts and both teams later met again in the final.

The All Blacks have played France seven times at the tournament, the most of any country, and Italy five times, with the 2019 fixture cancelled.

The Americas 1 winner will come from a play off series between the 2021 Rugby Americas North champion and 2021 Sudamerica Rugby champion. Africa 1 will be the winner of the 2022 Rugby Africa Cup.

USA are the highest ranked American side in the world and qualified as Americas 1 winner for the last World Cup.

Namibia have held the Africa 1 qualification spot since 1999 and were in the same pool as the All Blacks at last year's event in Japan.

As with previous Rugby World Cups, the tournament will feature 20 teams divided into four pools of five teams.

Twelve teams have already qualified – the top three teams from each of the four pools at the 2019 World Cup – and were seeded into three bands based on their position in the World Rugby rankings at the start of this year.

The knockout structure has yet to be revealed but if it follows the 2019 tournament then the winner of Pool A would face the runner up of Pool B in the quarter-finals - setting up a potential clash between the All Blacks and Ireland, South Africa or Scotland in the first stage of knockout.

The full 2023 Rugby World Cup Pools are as follows:

Pool A: New Zealand, France, Italy, Americas 1 and Africa 1.
Pool B: South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, Asia / Pacific 1 and Europe 2.
Pool C: Wales, Australia, Fiji, Europe 1 and Final Qualifier Winner.
Pool D: England, Japan, Argentina, Oceania 1 and Americas 2.

- With AP