Big guns clash in World Cup 'group of death'
England, Wales and Australia were all drawn together in a potential 'group of death' when the draw for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England was made yesterday.
The trio all found themselves in Pool A at a draw conducted at London's Tate Modern gallery.
This means one of the sport's traditional powers will be knocked out before the quarter-finals, with only the top two teams from each of the four pools going through to the knockout stages.
Wales were beaten 14-12 by Australia, twice the world champions, in Cardiff on Saturday - their eighth straight defeat by the Wallabies. England are currently in confident mood after their 38-21 victory over reigning world champions New Zealand at Twickenham.
"It is definitely a pretty tough pool," England coach Stuart Lancaster said. "To win the World Cup you have to win big games and I have got a huge amount of respect for what Wales have done recently.
"We know their squad pretty well, it is a young side and a lot of them will still be around in 2015. Australia have just beaten us and if you look at the age and profile of their squad, they have got some young lads as well. We will look forward to it."
The All Blacks got a much easier draw, in a Pool C with Argentina, Tonga and two as yet unqualified teams in Europe 1 and Africa 1.
Asia's representative will join South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and Americas 2 in Pool B.
France, beaten finalists in New Zealand last year, were in a Pool D with European rivals Ireland and Italy and Americas 1 and Europe 2.
The eight remaining teams will come from a series of global qualifying matches that will culminate in 2014.
The winners of England, Australia or Wales will face the runners-up from Pool B.
A crumb of comfort is that whoever wins Pool A will avoid New Zealand until the final provided the All Blacks, as they've done at every previous World Cup, win their group.
The 2015 World Cup in England, the eighth edition of the tournament, will run from September 18 to October 31, 2015, with the final at Twickenham.
Meanwhile, New Zealand flyhalf Dan Carter was named player of the year in a clean sweep by the world champions at the International Rugby Board awards yesterday.
The All Blacks were named team of the year. Head coach Steve Hansen won the coach of the year award.
Pool A: Australia, England, Wales, Oceania 1, Repechage winner
Pool B: South Africa, Samoa, Scotland, Asia 1, Americas 2
Pool C: New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga, Europe 1, Africa 1
Pool D: France, Ireland, Italy, Americas 1, Europe 2