Rugby World Cup 2021: England to face France, South Africa and Fiji in pool C

Thursday 19th November 2020 20:15 GMT

Top seeds and hosts New Zealand, who have won the competition a record five times, have been drawn in pool A with neighbours Australia, Wales and the winner of the Final Qualification Tournament.

Third seeds Canada are in pool B alongside USA and the winners of the Asia and Europe qualifiers.

The ninth edition of the tournament will take place in New Zealand for the first time, with games in Auckland and Whangarei between September 18 and October 16 next year.

The losing teams from the Asia and Europe qualifier will enter the Final Qualification Tournament, along with Samoa and the winner of a play-off between Colombia and Kenya.

With international rugby largely disrupted this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the seedings for the draw were based on world rankings from January 1.

England have since moved above New Zealand to No 1 in the world rankings after a 33-10 win over France earlier this month which extended their unbeaten run to nine games.

The last defeat for the Red Roses came in July 2019 against New Zealand, the same side who beat England in the final of the World Cup in 2017.

France, who have lost to England in the last six meetings between the two sides, have yet to reach a World Cup final but have finished third on six occasions and were beaten by the Red Roses in the semi-finals in 2017.

South Africa's best performance at a World Cup is 10th - in 2010 and 2014 - and are appearing at just their fourth tournament, while Fiji are newcomers to the finals.

Wales have been drawn against the Black Ferns for the second successive World Cup, losing 44-12 in Dublin three years ago.

The draw in full -

Pool A: New Zealand, Australia, Wales, Final Qualification Tournament winner

Pool B: Canada, USA, Europe qualifier, Asia qualifier

Pool C: England, France, South Africa, Fiji

Hunter: It's not going to be easy

England captain Sarah Hunter says the World Cup is getting increasingly competitive and insists they will show respect to each of their opponents next year.

Reflecting on the draw, Hunter told Sky Sports News: "France is always a tough competitor. We faced them last time in the semi-finals and we're going to have to do it in the pool this time.

"If you want to win the World Cup and be world champions, you have got to beat the best along the way.

"We've played South Africa numerous times. They're very physical and a bit of an unknown quantity. We've got to show respect to all the other teams in the competition and there's a long way to a final.

"When you get to a World Cup, form goes out the window, it's almost a clean slate for everyone. People either thrive in it or are crushed under the pressure. We're going to the other side of the world, it's not going to be easy."

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