History will repeat at the 2023 Rugby World Cup for Australia, who will face Wales and Fiji in their pool for the third-straight tournament after receiving a favourable draw.
The Wallabies, ranked sixth in the world and quarter-final casualties at last year’s World Cup in Japan, could have been lumped in a pool with New Zealand, England or holders South Africa for the Paris showpiece.
Instead they’ll face the lower-ranked Wales (ninth) for the fourth time in five tournaments and Fiji (11th), as well as two other yet to qualify nations.
Wales beat the Wallabies in Japan but have struggled since reaching the final four of that tournament, losing seven of their past nine Tests.
But Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, who has overseen one win, three draws and two losses since replacing Michael Cheika after the World Cup, knows there is “so much water under the bridge” until 2023.
“We’re really excited from a World Cup perspective, it’s a long way off but it makes it a bit of a reality now,” he said.
“There’s no easy pool as we’ve all talked about; if you look at the three teams that we know are confirmed in this pool they’re all really tough.
“We’re all three years away, our teams are going to change a lot, there’ll be other guys that will come through and I imagine we’ll all be better in three years time.”
Three-time winners and perennial favourites New Zealand will face hosts France but both teams will be confident of advancing after landing Italy as the third seed.
The Springboks were grouped with Ireland and Scotland while 2019 runners-up England face the potentially tricky dual challenge of Argentina and Japan.
The seedings for the RWC have routinely been decided three years out but this time, given the coronavirus-disruption of the international calendar, organisers decided to use the rankings as at the end of last year – four years ahead of the tournament.
Hence, Wales, beaten semi-finalists in 2019 but ranked ninth, were among the top four seeds while France, hosts and now world No.4, were placed in the second tier.
The 20-team RWC will take place across nine cities from September 8 to October 21, with the final in Paris.
Eight qualifiers are yet to be determined for the 10th edition of the tournament and will not be finalised until November 2022.
French President Emmanuel Macron was present at Monday’s draw in Paris.
“We cannot wait to get ready for this event,” he said.
“The COVID-19 crisis is terrible. In 2023, we want to offer what France can offer: the French way of life – friendliness, gastronomy, parties and culture.”
2023 Rugby World Cup groups
Pool A New Zealand France Italy Americas 1 Africa 1
Pool B South Africa Ireland Scotland Asia/Pacific 1 Europe 2
Pool C Wales Australia Fiji Europe 1 Final qualifier winner
Pool D England Japan Argentina Oceania 1 Americas 2