* France faces a difficult course with a potential S Africa quarter-final
* New Zealand and England could meet in semi-finals
* Ireland and Scotland together in the pool with Springboks
* Wales will face Australia, their regular group rivals (adds quotes)
PARIS, December 14 (Reuters) – Three-time winners and eternal favorites, New Zealand will face France, hosts of the 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC) group stage, but both sides will be confident to move forward after landing Italy as the third seed. in the group on Monday.
Holders of South Africa have been drawn with Ireland and Scotland, while 2019 finalists England have the potentially tricky dual challenge of Argentina and Japan. Wales will face Australia for the fourth time in five tournaments and Fiji for the fifth time in a row, with the Islanders knocking out the Welsh the last time France hosted the tournament in 2007.
If the groups became roughly to form France, France would face a tough quarter-final against the Springboks while England would face Australia or Wales. Ireland, who have never made it past the quarter-finals, would struggle to break that streak like they would face New Zealand.
The trajectory of the form could then produce a repeat of the 2019 semi-finals when England beat New Zealand and South Africa defeated Wales.
Scotland and Argentina were said to have been seeded second on the current rankings but, as rankings were based on positions late last year due to the COVID-ravaged calendar, they were placed in third level and face a daunting challenge progressing.
World champion South Africa made the draw without having played a single match since the 2019 final. Their victory in Japan was the first time a team had won the competition after losing a group game.
“Although he is still almost three years old, it is good to have an end goal to reach,” said South African coach Jacques Nienaber.
“Ireland and Scotland will be a tough challenge – we’ll have to be in top form just to get out of the pool. “
New Zealand are the only team to never lose a game of pool. In 2011, they beat France at this point and then again in the final. They were paired with Italy for a remarkable seventh time in 10 tournaments – a contributing factor in Italy’s label as the only team to have played in every World Cup without reaching the round of 16.
“We missed the game against Italy in the last World Cup because of a hurricane, so in some ways it will be a special opportunity to face them,” New Zealand coach Ian Foster said.
“Having France in our pool is going to be special, it’s a country with a lot of history and we watched them with admiration rebuild their team. They are building something very special for 2023. ”
France coach Fabien Galthie said: “Playing at home will be a fantastic challenge and a great motivation. There will be pressure but we will have the freedom to play our best.
England beat Argentina in the group stage in 2019, 2011 and 1995 while their only tournament encounter with Japan was a 60-7 victory in the inaugural World Cup in 1987. Their match in 2023 will be Special for coach Eddie Jones, who has a Japanese mother and coached the country to their famous group stage victory over South Africa in 2015.
Australia lost to Wales in 2019, sending them to a quarter-final against England which they lost. The same potential outcome is to be expected in 2023, with a knockout game against Japan or Argentina, a course that is likely more welcome for the group winners.
The tournament will take place in nine cities from September 8 to October 21, with the final in Paris. The remaining eight qualifications are yet to be determined and will not be finalized until November 2022.
French President Emmanuel Macron attended the draw.
“We can’t wait to get ready for this event,” he said. “In 2023, it will be 12 years since we reached the final for the last time. But this time it will be home for you (the team) to find a way to win the Cup. France also reached the finals of 1987 and 1999 – continuing the 12-year cycle.
“The COVID-19 crisis is terrible. In 2023, we want to offer what France can offer: the French art of living – conviviality, gastronomy, celebrations and culture.