Rugby World Cup: England to face Wales and Australia
Hosts handed 'nightmare' group for 2015, and may even have to play Wales in Cardiff
ENGLISH RUGBY was brought back down to earth with a bump on Monday as Stuart Lancaster's men were handed a "nightmare" draw in the 2015 World Cup.
Two days after England produced one of the all-time great Twickenham performances to destroy the mighty All Blacks, the mood of optimism at HQ was somewhat punctured by the news that the hosts of the 2015 tournament will have to face Australia and Wales in the group stages.
"The hosts have received precious few favours, copping possibly the hardest draw presented to any home nation since the tournament's inception in 1987," noted Robert Kitson in The Guardian.
It is a draw that "will no doubt cause the England head coach some sleepless nights" said Mark Souster of The Times. "After the euphoria of beating New Zealand, the world champions, England yesterday faced the sober reality of what it will take to win their home tournament in 2015," he added.
To make matters worse, Wales immediately launched an audacious bid to try and host the game against England in Cardiff and England Rugby 2015 chief executive, Debbie Jevans, refused to rule out the possibility that the clash could take place at the Millennium Stadium rather than Twickenham.
"With the exception of facing New Zealand it was the toughest draw England could have been handed and their chances will not be helped if they are unable to play all their pool games at Twickenham," said Mick Cleary of The Daily Telegraph, who described the draw as a "nightmare scenario" for England.
He also explained that Wales have been given the chance to stage several games during the tournament and are angling to play England on their own turf.
The Times says it is "unlikely" that the crunch match will be played outside London, but Chris Hewett of The Independent believes economic pressures could come into play. There tournament's demanding financial targets mean games need an average attendance of around 60,000, and up to eight matches could be held in Wales, where the Millennium Stadium has a capacity of 74,000.
"As Australia would be most reluctant to play Wales anywhere to the west of the Severn, on the grounds that it is not a Welsh World Cup, it is not wholly out of the question that England will be asked to travel to Cardiff for business reasons," he argues.
Website Rugby365.com adds: "It would seem extraordinary were England to play a pool match at a World Cup they are hosting beyond their borders, although something similar did happen in 2007 when hosts France beat New Zealand in a World Cup quarterfinal in Cardiff."