All Blacks draw Springboks in 2019 Rugby World Cup pool
KYOTO, Japan (AP) — New Zealand will face archrival South Africa in the 2019 Rugby World Cup pool stage in Japan and Six Nations champion England was again drawn in the toughest pool of the tournament on Wednesday.
The All Blacks, the two-time defending champions, have never lost a pool game, but that record will be tested when they face the Springboks, the former two-time champions, in Pool B.
The Springboks won their biggest cup match, the 1995 final that was portrayed in the movie "Invictus," but the All Blacks have won their last two cup matches, including in the 2015 semifinals.
It will be the first time the two nations meet in the pool stage.
"Any one of the top eight teams that you get paired up with are going to be tough," New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said. "In this case we get South Africa. They are a team that knows us well and we know them very well. There is a lot of good history between the two teams and it will be one of the games of the tournament."
South Africa has fallen behind its traditional foe, though, with New Zealand winning nine of their last 10 games in all competitions, including a record 57-15 hammering the last time they met in October 2016.
"As I said before the draw was made, to us it doesn't matter who we are drawn against because to win the Rugby World Cup you have to beat the best teams out there," Springboks coach Allister Coetzee said.
The draw took place 2 1/2 years ahead of the Rugby World Cup to allow organizers time to sort out the match schedule and ticketing, confirm venues, and arrange base camps.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was among the dignitaries to take part in the draw at the historic Kyoto Guest House. The 2019 tournament in Japan will be the first to be held in Asia and outside of the traditional rugby nations.
The draw featured the 12 teams that had booked places courtesy of a top-three pool finish at the 2015 World Cup in England.
England was drawn with France and Argentina in a grueling Pool C. Two-time champion Australia was with Wales and Georgia in Pool D. Host Japan was with Ireland and Scotland in Pool A.
England became the first host team to fail to advance from the pool stage in 2015 after it lost to Australia and Wales. The 1991 champions and two-time finalists face another arduous pool in Japan. France has reached three finals, and Argentina has made the semifinals of two of the last three World Cups. The others in the pool could be the United States or Canada, and Fiji or Samoa.
"Our pool will be highly competitive and full of intensity, as a World Cup group should be," England coach Eddie Jones said. "History shows that you need to win seven games to win the tournament and we will greatly respect every team we play."
France coach Guy Noves said the game against Argentina will be a "decisive" one, adding that France's goal will be to progress to the knockout rounds "in first or second place."
"England, alongside New Zealand, was the scarecrow everybody wanted to avoid," Noves said. "We have them in our pool. This group is very well balanced and will allow us to play tough games from the start."
There were gasps from the Japanese in the audience at the draw when the host side was paired with Scotland. Japan's only loss in the 2015 World Cup pool stage was to Scotland, thanks to an unhelpful draw.
Japan shocked the World Cup by upsetting South Africa 34-32 on the opening weekend, but had to face Scotland just four days later. Scotland, fresh and playing its first match, beat Japan 45-10. Japan became the first winner of three pool matches to fail to reach the quarterfinals.