As the Irish and British Lions dominate rugby discourse over the next couple of months, the international sides from the represented nations will be touring the world with reserve squads (well, Scotland won't be too badly affected), as some of the fringe players get the opportunity to make an impression ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. By the time that Joe Schmidt is running the rule over some squad hopefuls on that summer tour, he will know the draw, as it takes place in Kyoto in May. So who can Ireland draw in the rugby world cup? Read on for the various scenarios and permutations that Ireland will face at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
When is the draw?
The draw for the 2019 Rugby World Cup takes place in Kyoto, Japan on May 10.
Who is in the draw?
So far, there are twelve confirmed teams, by virtue of their finishing in the top three of their respective pools during the previous World Cup. That means that New Zealand, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, Ireland, England, France, Scotland, Wales, Italy, Georgia and Japan are guaranteed a spot in the draw.
Who can Ireland draw in the Rugby World Cup?
Despite the fact that qualification for the World Cup is based on performance at the previous iteration of the competition, the seedings for the draw are based on world rankings. The top four in the rankings are top seeds for the world cup, with the next four considered second seeds, and the next four down are ranked third seeds. Here's the breakdown of the seeds:
Top seeds: New Zealand, England, Australia, Ireland
Second seeds: Scotland, France, South Africa, Wales
Third seeds: Argentina, Japan, Georgia, Italy
That means that Ireland are guaranteed to avoid England, Australia and the champions New Zealand in the pool process. We'll get one team from each of the two pots below.
What are the best scenarios and permutations for Ireland?
It's difficult to know. We have no reason to fear any of the sides ranked below us, although some draws will be easier than others. One imagines Scotland would be the kindest draw from the second pot, while hosts Japan and our eternal nemeses in Argentina are the teams to swerve from pot 3.
What other nations will make up the draw?
With twelve guaranteed, the final eight slots will be filled with nations who successfully navigate qualification, which is currently underway, and will end in November 2018. Six of these spots have been assigned regionally by World Rugby. The winner of the Rugby Africa Championship is guaranteed a spot. The winner of the European Nations Cup (runners-up if the competition is won by Georgia) will qualify, with the next highest-ranked team entering a playoff with the third-ranked side from the Pacific Nations Cup. The top two of that competition will qualify automatically.
The winner of the European Nations Cup (runners-up if the competition is won by Georgia) will qualify, with the next highest-ranked team entering a playoff with the third-ranked side from the Pacific Nations Cup. The top two of that competition will qualify automatically.
Two sides from the Americas qualify. Canada and the USA will playoff home and away, with the winner qualifying for the World Cup. The loser will play the highest-ranked side from South America (excluding Argentina) with the winner of that clash qualifying. The loser gets another chance: they qualify for a round-robin competition.
That round-robin tournament has the final spot at the RWC up for grabs. Along with the aforementioned, it will feature the loser of the Europe/Oceania qualifier along with the runners-up of the African competition and the winners of a playoff between the winners of the Oceania Cup and the highest-ranked side in Asia (excluding Japan).
So if you're asking who can Ireland draw in the rugby world cup, that's your answer. Roll on 2019!