Published on 3 Dec 2012 Sections , ,

Tough times ahead for England’s rugby players

After their victory against the All Blacks, England’s rugby players find themselves in the “group of death” for the 2015 World Cup, writes Ben Monro-Davies.

Wales' Williams evades a tackle from England's Croft to score a try against England during their international Six Nations rugby match at Twickenham in London (Reuters)

Rugby has long been the most eccentric of sports. Its rules are incomprehensible. Large parts of the game see no play whatsoever.

An 18 stone, five foot prop can be better than a Usain Bolt-like athlete on the wing. And for some reason, the rugby world cup draw has to take place three years before the competition itself.

And so rugby stars and scribes trotted today to Tate Modern – a further eccentricity – for the draw for Rugby World Cup 2015. And this bizarre insistence on organising the tournament well in advance has big implications for the outcome of the tournament itself.

At the moment, England, despite their shock victory against the All Blacks, are ranked outside the top four. Wales, despite their status as Grand Slam champions, are outside the top eight. So both risked being drawn together against a team from the top four in the initial group stages.

And so it has happened. The famed groups of death of World Cup football fame have come to rugby. At today’s draw, England, Wales and Australia were drawn together.

Only two of them can go through. The Daily Mail has a good explainer of it all here. The remaining two teams in the group, who will come from the minnows of world rugby, will not be announced for a further two years. It makes a work of art by the Chapman Brothers seem straightforward.

So England, who host RWC2015, could be knocked out at the group stage. As could Wales or Australia. In a way it’s a terrible shame, depriving the tournament of crunch matches in the latter stages. But then again – what a group. Will ever an England-Wales match have had more at stake?