Lucky, lucky England pulled the plum out of the Rugby World Cup goodie bag yesterday, just when it was least deserved.
England manager Martin Johnson got his first break of the entire autumn as he saw the 2003 World Cup winners get the draw every one of the second tier countries wanted, in the same pool as Argentina.
Of course, given England’s shambolic form this autumn, a tie against Old Rubberduckians 3rds would be too close to call. But you have to believe that by September 9, 2011, when the 7th Rugby World Cup gets under way, England might actually have a proper team again.
If so, they will surely have a clear chance of winning Pool B, being paired with Argentina, Scotland, Europe 1 (probably Georgia) and the play-off winner.
If successful, England would probably meet France in the quarter finals, in what would be a re-run of the 2007 quarter final when ‘Les Rosbifs’ broke French hearts at Marseille.
The draw gave defending Champions South Africa plenty to think about.
They were plunged into a so-called Pool of Death, together with Wales, currently the best of the northern hemisphere sides, Fiji, the quarter finalists in 2007 and probably the equally physical Samoans.
New Zealand will be expected to dominate Pool A, with France, Tonga, Americas 1 & Asia 1.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry, mindful of the fact that the French wrecked New Zealand’s World Cup dreams in 1999 and 2007 at the knock-out stages, joked: “It will be nice to play the French in a pool match, not at the knock-out stage.
“But really, there is a long time until the World Cup.”