Warren Gatland excited by World Cup draw
WALES head coach Warren Gatland has hailed his side’s 2015 World Cup group of death as a ‘great draw’.
Gatland insists that the prospect of facing host nation England and southern hemisphere giants Australia is ‘incredibly exciting’.
Pool A will be completed by two qualifiers with Oceania 1 (probably Fiji) and the play-off winner, possibly Uruguay.
"It’s a tough group but it’s a great group to be in. We’re excited about it," said Gatland.
"We were in a tough group last time with Samoa, South Africa and Fiji and this time we’ve got Australia and England.
"But the last three games against Australia have been very close.
"And against England the games have been pretty close with both teams winning in Cardiff or at Twickenham.
"We know each other pretty well so 2015 will be incredibly exciting, even though there’s a lot of rugby to be played before that."
And the New Zealander believes that whoever progresses from Pool A will be among the favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup at Twickenham.
"If you get out of that group and make the quarter-finals you’re in great shape because even the Oceania team, which will probably be Fiji, makes it very competitive."
Gatland’s men, World Cup semi-finalists last year, have paid a price for dropping to ninth in the International Rugby Board rankings following successive autumn defeats against Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
It meant they were in the third band of countries for the draw, increasing the prospect of a punishing group, and so it has proved.
Despite their recent struggles, though, Wales will be confident they can progress to the quarter-finals, having won two Six Nations titles and Grand Slams during Gatland’s reign.
Wales captain Sam Warburton said: "We had a group of death in the last World Cup so we are used to the situation.
"It's a fascinating pool. Wales against Australia has always been a good game.
"As for England v Wales, there is enough rivalry there without it being the World Cup.
"From a players' point of view we are guaranteed to play in front of a packed house against England which is really exciting.’’ Wales have never previously been drawn in the same World Cup group as England.
Their last World Cup meeting was during the 2003 tournament in Brisbane, when England trailed at half-time before securing a tense quarter-final triumph.
The draw, held at the Tate Modern art gallery in London, saw Ireland land France, Italy, Americas 1 and Europe 2 in Pool D, while Scotland are in with Pool B rivals South Africa, Samoa, Asia 1 and Americas 2.
New Zealand, meanwhile, look to have secured the easiest pool, being bracketed alongside Argentina, Tonga, Europe 1 and Africa 1.
The tournament kicks off on September 18, 2015, with Twickenham staging the final six weeks later.