O'Driscoll to attend third career draw in London on Monday
RUGBY:As much as it is a PRO12 weekend, with the four Irish provinces in action, it’s a last chance for coaches to cast an eye over their teams just a week out from the season-defining back-to-back matches in round three and four of the Heineken Cup.
For the international players, and those with ambitions in three years time, their short-term interest will also fall on London’s Rugby World Cup draw on Monday, where the Irish captain, Brian O’Driscoll, will attend his third career draw in the London art gallery on the city’s South Bank.
England is promising what they describe as a “spectacular festival of Rugby and culture”. If the Olympic Games are any measure, London mayor Boris Johnson and co may just deliver for the 2015 tournament.
O’Driscoll will accompany Irish coach Declan Kidney to the draw, which is to be televised live on ITV4 (Live also on www.RTÉ.ie/sport, 2.50pm) with the team bands still unknown until Wales complete their match today against Australia.
In that respect all eyes will be on the match at the Millennium Stadium, which is the only fixture that can change the current alignment of the draw bandings.
Wales, however, have their destiny in their own hands as a win could lift them as high as fifth and defeat see them fall below Samoa and Argentina to occupy a place in band three for the Pool Draw.
The IRB World Rankings will be used to rank the 12 directly qualified teams into the three bands with the sides ranked one to four in band one. Crucially this means that the top four teams, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and France, will avoid each other until the knockout stages.
Those ranked from five to eight and that includes Ireland, go into band two and the remaining four are placed in band three.
O’Driscoll’s third draw
O’Driscoll, who will become the only Irish player to have been captain at three RWC draws, will be there with the captains and coaches from the other 11 directly qualified teams as well as representatives from nations hoping to qualify for one of the eight places available via the global qualification process, which kicked off earlier this year.
As yet there is no information on the price range of tickets or when they will go on sale although the IRB yesterday said that the ticketing programme would be launched in 2013, probably in the first quarter.
As the number of venues remains at 17, the organisers have to boil that figure down to 10 to 12 stadia and identify the big fixtures to ensure the best possible alignment of venues to matches. Clearly a game involving England and New Zealand would require a larger venue and price structure than Tonga playing against France or Ireland.
“London proved this summer that it is simply the best place in the world to stage international sport,” said Johnson. “So it’s fantastic that as host city for 2015 we have been given the honour of staging matches from another of the world’s largest sporting events, which will see top-flight competition return to London and the UK’s iconic venues so quickly after the 2012 Games.”
The Olympic Stadium in east London is one of the named venues on the long list.
Three years out
As it was with Rugby World Cup 2011, the 2015 draw is taking place three years out from the event for a number of logistical and preparatory reasons. The longer lead-in time creates certainty for teams (including those still to qualify) that will help with preparation, travel, accommodation and the selection of team-base camps.
On that Ireland will not be permitted to train in Ireland and fly in for matches as they do in the Six Nations Championship.
The RWC participation agreement stipulates that qualified nations must spend a minimum number of days in the host country and Ireland will stay in venues selected by the host nation. Had they’d been allowed to move freely Eddie O’Sullivan would not have remained in their less than ideal Bordeaux hotel in the 2007 RWC in France but flown in from Ireland two days before each match.
New Zealand captain Richie McCaw (left), who is in the running for this year’s IRB Player of the Year, will deliver the iconic Webb Ellis Cup to London on the day.
(Prior to Wales v Australia match in Cardiff today)
New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, France
England, Ireland, Wales, Samoa
Argentina, Italy, Tonga, Scotland
Oceania 1, Europe 1, Asia 1, Americas 1
Africa 1, Europe 2, Americas 2, Repechage winner