Rugby World Cup 2023: Seeds for pool stage draw announced

Cheslin Kolbe takes on Owen Farrell in the 2019 World Cup final
Cheslin Kolbe helped South Africa beat Owen Farrell and his England team-mates in the 2019 World Cup final in Tokyo

Wales and England will be in the top band for the 2023 Rugby World Cup's pool stage draw in Paris in December.

Ireland are in the second band while Scotland are in the third, so could face each other along with Wales or England in the pool stage in France.

Reigning champions South Africa and New Zealand will be in band one with Wales and England for the draw in Paris.

Australia, Japan and hosts France join Ireland in band two, while Argentina, Fiji and Italy are in Scotland's band.

Band four will made up of teams who have yet to qualify from World Rugby's Oceania, Europe, Americas and either Asia or Pacific zones.

The fifth band will include teams via qualifying from Africa, Europe, the Americas and a final qualifier winner, traditionally determined via a repechage event.

Wales are now sixth in the world rankings, but were fourth at the January 2020 cut-off that determined the bands.

World Rugby intended to base the bands on rankings after 2020's November Tests but Covid-19's disruption to the international calendar has changed that plan.

The Six Nations is yet to be completed, the November Test schedule has been ravaged and Japan have been unable to play any fixtures.

The Rugby World Cup board decided the most fair and transparent ranking to determine the bands was one after the World Cup 2019 in Japan but before the start of this year's Six Nations.

Delaying the draw until after The Rugby Championship in 2021 - to allow time for all nations to play more matches - was ruled out as it would have had a significant impact on tournament preparations by delaying the match schedule, venue allocation and ticketing launch.

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: "While Covid-19 means that, in the interests of fairness for all qualified teams, we have needed to draw a line under the rankings at the beginning of the year, everyone should appreciate this is a unique time, we can't delay, and we must continue to accelerate planning.

"The RWC 2023 draw will be a greatly anticipated beacon of hope and excitement as we look towards France 2023 and beyond the global pandemic."

The RWC board has recommended the draw for future tournaments should take place no earlier than one year before the event to ensure the pools better reflect performance at the time.

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