World Cup groupings may draw little comfort for Ireland
No sooner has the Six Nations finished, the Lions squad been announced and the Champions Cup finalists for 2017 decided and the World Cup draw for Japan comes firmly into view. World Rugby and the Japanese organising committee will host the Pool draw for 2019 tomorrow fortnight, May 10, in Kyoto's State Guest House - the same venue used to host the G7 summit in 2016.
And while we may have finished second to England in the Six Nations by the skin of our teeth that crucial points difference, leaving us ahead of France and Scotland in the pecking order, sees that fourth ranking in the world secured and a place in Band 1 at the Kyoto draw guaranteed.
Joe Schmidt and his side will join New Zealand, England and Australia as the top ranked teams for Japan. For fairly obvious reasons it is a good place to be yet it is not inconceivable that with the Scots, the French and the Welsh alongside the South Africans in Band 2 thereby pushing Argentina into Band 3 a nightmare draw could still unfold alongside the Springboks and Pumas - both semi-finalists in 2015.
As for the dream draw? I guess either the Scots or Welsh from Band 2 and any two from the hosts, the Georgians or the Italians (anyone but the Argentinians) from Band 3. Because Italy, who are ranked 15th, are by definition a tier one nation, they, despite finishing behind Fiji, Samoa and Tonga in the rankings, occupy a place in Band 3. As with the PRO12 and Champions Cup make of that what you will.