Springboks (Getty Images)
Hosts France could face holders South Africa in the group stages of the 2023 Rugby World Cup after World Rugby announced on Friday changes to the seeding system.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, seeding levels for the tournament draw held on 14 December in Paris will be based on world rankings on 1 January 2020 instead of after the Autumn internationals as originally intended.
“While Covid-19 means that, in the interests of fairness for all qualified teams, we have needed to draw a line under the rankings at the beginning of the year, everyone should appreciate that this is a unique time, we can’t delay,” World Rugby chairperson Bill Beaumont said.
The Springboks are joined by three-time winners New Zealand, last year’s runners up England and Wales in the top group of sides.
Les Bleus, are with Ireland, Australia and 2019 home country Japan in the second pot while Scotland, Argentina, Italy and Fiji make up the third.
The fourth and fifth band will be made up from the eight qualifying nations which will be decided by November 2022.
The general manager of the 2023 Rugby World Cup France Claude Atcher was released from police custody last week after he was questioned alongside French rugby president and World Rugby vice-chairperson Bernard Laporte as part of an investigation into suspicions of favouritism of Top 14 club Montpellier.
The bands as of 1 January 2020 are:
- Band 1: South Africa, New Zealand, England, Wales
- Band 2: Ireland, Australia, France, Japan
- Band 3: Scotland, Argentina, Fiji, Italy
- Band 4: Oceania 1, Europe 1, Americas 1, Asia / Pacific 1
- Band 5: Africa 1, Europe 2, Americas 2, Final Qualifier Winner