The British and Irish Lions are touring New Zealand in the coming months, which will take centre stage in the world of rugby union. However, heads will begin to look to Japan and the 2019 World Cup, particularly after the pool stage draw was made.
Australia will again face Wales in the pool stage just as they did in 2015, whilst an eye-catching tie will take place between New Zealand and South Africa during the early stages of the tournament.
Having failed to get out of their pool during their home World Cup in 2015, England will again face tough opposition during the early stages of the tournament, with fixtures against Argentina and France.
With knowledge of who will face off in 2019, here is a look at the pools and what we can expect.
Romania are likely to join Ireland, Scotland and Japan in Pool A, along with the eventual playoff winner.
Verdict: Ireland will expect to progress to the quarter-finals from Pool A, with Scotland and Japan set to battle for second-place. The Scots put in some impressive displays during the 2017 Six Nations tournament, but Japan have home advantage and could spring a surprise by qualifying.
Heavyweights New Zealand and South Africa meet in Pool B, with the All Blacks again favourites to win the tournament. However, the Springboks aren’t as well fancied with odds of 10/1 at this stage with bookmakers including bet365.
Italy are also confirmed to be competing alongside the rugby giants, whilst Namibia could potentially qualify for Pool B, alongside another.
Verdict: It is not difficult to predict who will qualify from Pool B, with New Zealand and South Africa surely overwhelming favourites to progress to the quarter-finals and beyond.
“The group of death” is what Pool C is being described as, with England going toe-to-toe with Six Nations rivals France and 25/1 outsiders Argentina in what is sure to be the most entertaining pool.
Either the USA or Canada from the Americas and Fiji or Samoa from the Oceania will join England, France and Argentina in Pool C.
Verdict: England have significantly improved under Eddie Jones’ leadership over the last two years and if they continue to do so, they will qualify. Either Argentina or France will join Jones’ side in progressing from what will be an entertaining pool.
Australia will face Wales for a second successive World Cup in the pool stages, and the ever-improving Georgia, who have recently moved above the Italians in the world rankings, will join them.
In a similar scenario to Pool C, the USA or Canada and Samoa or Fiji will complete the group.
Verdict: As was the same two years ago, Australia and Wales will be expected to qualify, although this time not at the expense of a top seed. However, Georgia’s constant improvements could see them cause a potential upset along the way.