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All Blacks draw Boks in World Cup pool

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/05/2017

The All Blacks have avoided a 2019 Rugby World Cup group of death but will still face the challenge of southern hemisphere foes South Africa in the pool stage of the Japan tournament.

Finalists in the 1995 World Cup and semi-finalists two years ago, the two sides have been drawn with Italy, a qualifier from Africa and the victor of a repechage knockout series in Pool Two.

"Everyone will get excited by it - we know each other pretty well so we'll just continue to get to understand each other before we get here," All Blacks boss Steve Hansen said at the draw in Kyoto.

The African qualifier will be the champion of the 2018 Africa Cup, which could be New Zealand's 2015 pool opponents Namibia, or the likes of Kenya or Zimbabwe.

The repechage series, meanwhile, draws four teams from the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Asia-Oceania playoff for a final World Cup place.

As a result, New Zealand and South Africa will fancy their chances of going through to the knockouts, but will still need to reckon with the Italians, who upset the Springboks in a 2016 Test and are strong at the set piece.

Elsewhere, Eddie Jones' England were the unlucky side to draw Argentina, who were handed a spot in the third-seed bracket.

England and Los Pumas join France, the first qualifier from the Americas and a second qualifier from Oceania in Pool Three.

Hosts Japan were drawn with Ireland, Scotland, the first European qualifier and the victor of a playoff between Oceanian and European teams in Pool One.

Australia were drawn comfortably with Wales, Georgia, the first Oceanian qualifier and a second qualifier from the Americas in Pool Four.

Hansen said he was excited for the tournament.

"It's a great opportunity, it's a special part of the world and a unique culture, and rugby is developing here," Hansen said.

POOL ONE: Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Europe 1, playoff winner

POOL TWO: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Africa 1, repechage winner

POOL THREE: England, France, Argentina, Americas 1, Oceania 2

POOL FOUR: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Oceania 1, Americas 2

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