Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has expressed his excitement with the Rugby World Cup 2019 draw, which will see his men face Ireland, hosts Japan and Pool A qualifiers ‘Europe 1' and the cross-continental ‘Play-Off winner’.
He said: “The first reaction is one of excitement that we know which pool we’ll be in. The Rugby World Cup now comes into sharper focus for everyone and it looks, from the draw today, like it’s going to be another great tournament.
“It’s a new venue for the World Cup and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of interest in our Pool draw, especially when we get there, because we’re taking on the host country.
“The 2015 World Cup was a great tournament with some brilliant rugby played and I’m sure the next one in Japan will be even better.”
Reflecting further on the pool, he added: “Ireland have been one of the most competitive and most-improved sides over the past few years and a lot of that is to do with their quality of players and the influence of Head Coach Joe Schmidt.
“They have shown real consistency over the past two or three years. They are one of the best teams in the world. Whichever side we drew from the top band was always going to be very tough.
“On the other hand, we know Ireland pretty well and have a couple more opportunities to play them before the World Cup, while we also know a lot about their players through the Guinness PRO12.
“Japan obviously made a memorable impact at the World Cup two years ago, beating South Africa, and will have tremendous support going into the tournament.
“They’ll be targeting getting out of the Pool and I’m sure that we’ll see them play close to their best in every game.
“We know how dangerous they can be, having played them in the World Cup and on tour last year. The majority of our players who will feature in the next World Cup have already had that first contact with them and the style of rugby they aspire to play. It’s likely they’re going to continue to improve over the next few years.
“Playing the hosts makes it a bigger challenge but one we will relish. It’s pretty much guaranteed that we’ll play them in front of a sell-out crowd. That will be great motivation for our players.”
Pool A will be completed by and the remaining group qualifiers ‘Europe 1’, and the ‘Play-Off Winner’.
Photo credit: Scottish Rugby website