England face tough Rugby World Cup draw

May 11, 2017

England have been drawn in the same group as France and Argentina for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The outcome of the draw means England will be part of the 'group of death' that every tournament traditionally produces, in which at least one highly-fancied side will make an early exit.

Argentina were semi-finalists in the last World Cup in England two years ago, while France lost the 2011 final against hosts New Zealand by a single point.

Much of the challenge will come from the vast improvement of the Argentina side since joining the Rugby Championship, which means they regularly mix it with the All Blacks, South Africa and Australia.

The rest of the group will be made up of the winner of the Americas qualifying tournament, and the runner-up from Oceania.

Although the challenge will be a significant one, it is a task Eddie Jones and his men should relish, particularly if they can continue the kind of form seen early on in his reign that saw the side equal New Zealand's record of 18 successive Test wins.

At the same time, now the draw has been made fans will be casting an eye on the form of various teams and players around the world, with those booking corporate hospitality for the England v Barbarians match at Twickenham on May 28th having a chance to see some unfamiliar players who might be big in Japan.

This week saw the latest additions to the Baa Baas squad, with South Africa’s Ruan Pienaar and New Zealand’s Charles Piutau joining Vern Cotter's outfit. Last month saw New Zealander Corey Flynn and Aussies Will Genia and Adam Ashley-Cooper being named in the squad, while those with an eye on players from Argentina will note the inclusion of Facundo Isa and lock Patricio Albacete.

France fullback Maxime Medard is also in the squad, but one Frenchman included who will not be at the World Cup is veteran Thierry Dusatoir, who is coming to the end of his career. The game may be the last chance for fans to see the 2011 IRB World Player of the Year in action at Twickenham.

England will see plenty more of Argentina this summer when they tour the country and play two Tests, although the results are unlikely to be a good guide to how the World Cup clash may go as 15 of the side will be away on Lions duty.

Reflecting on the draw in his BBC Sport column, former England star Jeremy Guscott said of the Pumas: "Argentina can be unpredictable - they will be strong but I'm not sure about their age profile. In years gone by it has tended to be quite high and they haven't got a lot of resources or strength in depth." He also noted that France tend not to travel well, but often rise to the occasion in big tournaments.

Guscott said the overall quality of the southern hemisphere sides has dipped, apart from the all-conquering All Blacks, meaning the northern hemisphere sides are likely to be much closer to them in 2019.

Other pools will see Ireland and Scotland playing alongside hosts Japan, Wales taking on Australia at the group stage for the second World Cup in a row and New Zealand facing South Africa.

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