Ireland have been drawn in Pool B alongside champions South Africa and Scotland for the 2023 Rugby World Cup In France.
Since Ireland beat the Springboks 38-3 in a 2017 Guinness Series at the Aviva Stadium, South Africa have established themselves as the dominant force in global rugby – winning last year’s World Cup in Japan.
Ireland beat Scotland at that tournament in the pool stages and are very familiar with Gregor Townsend’s side, after this year’s Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup.
The set-up of the pools also mean that if Ireland progress from the pool stage, they will face a team from Pool A, almost certainly either New Zealand or hosts France, leaving them with a tricky World Cup route.
“You look at how Scotland are progressing under Gregor Townsend, if they can keep key players fit they’re a handful for anyone,” said former Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll.
“We have a great rivalry, there is no love lost between the teams. Ireland are on ascendancy in head-to-head. But we have not managed to deliver at a World Cup yet. Pressure on to reach quarter-final and reach that elusive semi-final,” added O’Driscoll, who believes Ireland will look forward to a first ever RWC meeting with South Africa.
“You have to beat best teams to win World Cup, ” he said. “They’re a tough team to draw in the pool, but one that Andy Farrell and Johnny Sexton will relish.”
Hosts France have been paired with three-time world champions New Zealand in Pool A, a group which also includes Italy.
England have been drawn alongside Japan and Argentina in Pool D, while Wales will be joined in Pool C by Australia and Fiji.
The 10th edition of the tournament will take place from 8 September to 21 October, 2023 at nine venues across France.
The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on international rugby this year meant teams were seeded based on World Rugby’s official rankings 11 months ago as some teams, including South Africa and Japan, have not played in 2020.
Wales, who have dropped from fourth to ninth in the rankings this year, were the main country to benefit as they were included among the top seeds at the expense of France.
The Welsh defeated both Australia and Fiji in the World Cup pool stage last year en-route to reaching the semi-finals.
Rugby World Cup 2023
Pool A: New Zealand, France, Italy, America 1, Africa 1
Pool B: South Africa, Ireland, Scotland, Asia Pacific, Europe 1
Pool C: Wales, Australia, Fiji ,Europe 1. Final Qualifier Winner
Pool D: England, Japan, Argentina, Oceania 1, Americas 2
Quarter Final 1: Winner Pool C v Runner-up Pool D
Quarter Final 2: Winner Pool B v Runner-up Pool A
Quarter Final 3: Winner Pool D v Runner-up Pool C
Quarter Final 4: Winner Pool A v Runner-up Pool B
Semi-Final 1: Winner QF1 v Qf3
Semi-Final 2: Winner Qf2 v QF4