Ireland draw Scotland and Japan in Rugby World Cup
Joe Schmidt’s Ireland side avoid big guns in favourable World Cup pool draw
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt arrives for the Rugby World Cup pool draw with Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters
Joe Schmidt might have allowed himself a smile in Kyoto on Wednesday morning as Ireland managed the equivalent of winning Willie Wonka’s ‘Golden ticket’ at the 2019 World Cup draw in Kyoto.
The Ireland coach watched on as Ireland were drawn in Pool A alongside Scotland, hosts Japan, the as yet to be determined Europe 1 - likely to be either Romania or Russia - and the play-off winner, which will be determined closer to the start of the tournament when the qualification process, which included 83 countries concludes.
When you consider the alternatives that could have been materialised Schmidt will be delighted. Defending champions and three-time winners New Zealand are in Pool B alongside twice world champions South Africa and Conor O’Shea’s Italy.
England, who won the World Cup in 2003 and hosted the last tournament, are pitted against France and Argentina in Pool C. Australia and Wales, who met at the last World Cup in the pool stages are reunited in Pool D with Georgia for company.
Ireland have only played Scotland once in the Rugby World Cup, losing to them in a pool match at Murrayfield in 1991, a tournament in which the former almost surprised Australia, the eventual winners in a quarter-final at Lansdowne Road.
Schmidt’s side has also been drawn alongside hosts, Japan, where they coincidentally head for this summer to play two tests, having stopped in the USA on the way out to Asia. Japan, who memorably beat South Africa at the 2015 World Cup, have never beaten Ireland, losing twice to them in the global tournament in 1991 and 2005.
Japan coach, the former All Black Jamie Joseph, said: “Any pool was going to present a big challenge for us. With the certainty of the draw we can now start preparing for it. Ireland are here in June and we can have a look. They are an outstanding team. Japan have never beaten Ireland or Scotland at a World Cup.”
In relation to the identity of the Europe 1 winner, Romania currently lead the league standings – Georgia in second place currently have already qualified for the 2019 World Cup – and if that proves to be the case then it would offer a reprise from four years ago when Ireland beat Romania at Wembley.
Looking at the long range forecast for the playoff winner that is most likely to be Tonga – it comes from the team that finishes third in Oceania so Fiji and Samoa are in the hopper – and their likely opponents in the playoff are Spain or Russia. The winner of that playoff match would join Ireland and the other countries in Pool A.
Pool A: Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Europe 1, Play-off winner
Pool B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Africa 1, Repachage winner
Pool C: England, France, Argentina, Americas 1, Oceania 2
Pool D: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Oceania 1, Americas 2