Rugby World Cup 2019: Scotland face Ireland and hosts Japan in finals group

Scotland wing Huw Jones celebrates against Japan last year
Scotland defeated Japan 21-16 in their last meeting last year

Scotland will face Ireland and hosts Japan in the pool stage of the Rugby World Cup 2019 finals.

A European qualifier and the winners of a play-off will join Scotland in their section at the tournament, which runs from 20 September to 2 November 2019.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend insisted that Ireland were not necessarily the easiest of the four possible top seeds.

"Whoever we drew in the first set of teams was going to be very tough," he told BBC Scotland.

Drawing Ireland, world ranked four, meant the Scots avoided holders New Zealand, Australia and England.

'There will be a lot of buzz in Japan'

Scotland, who beat Ireland 27-22 at Murrayfield at the start of this season's Six Nations and are presently ranked one place below them, had been in the second pot of seeds for the draw made in Japan.

"Ireland we know well and we know how good they are," said Townsend, who has taken over as coach following the end of his last season with Glasgow Warriors.

"They've really improved over the last few years, won the Six Nations last year, beat the All Blacks, beaten England this year as well.

"Whether it's better for us or Ireland that we know each other so well, we will find out in a couple of years' time."

It is the fourth time that the Scots have been drawn in the same pool as Japan and the sides faced one another in England two years ago.

The Scots then led by Vern Cotter beat the Cherry Blossoms 45-10 to finish runners-up in their group behind South Africa, but all three sides recorded three wins and a defeat after Japan shocked the Springboks.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend is excited by the draw

"Obviously there's an excitement playing the host nation and it probably guarantees a sell-out game in that fixture and I'm sure there will be a lot of buzz in Japan around the group we're involved in," said Townsend.

"It will be hugely passionate and adds to the challenge for us to take on the host nation, but it's one we are looking forward to."

Japan, at 11th, were the second-highest ranked team Scotland could have faced out of pot three, with Argentina highest at ninth.

The Scots kept their unbeaten record at test level against the Cherry Blossoms intact with a 2-0 series win in Japan last year.

Japan coach Jamie Joseph said: "Japan haven't beaten Ireland or Scotland to date, so it is going to be a big challenge, but any group we got was going to be a challenge.

"We play Ireland in June, so it will give us a good understanding of their team."

Tom English tweet
Tom English tweeted following the World Cup draw

Twenty nations will take part in the tournament and have been drawn into four groups of five.

The 12 teams who finished in the top three of their groups at the last World Cup automatically qualified for the event.

They were split into three bands based on their ranking, with eight more teams yet to be decided.

The All Blacks, England, Australia and Ireland were in band one, France, Scotland, South Africa and Wales made up band two and Argentina, Georgia, Italy and Japan are in band three.

The teams yet to qualify were in the two remaining pots.

Scotland will face the top qualifier from Europe, plus the winner of a play-off between the second top European team and the third from Oceania.

Rugby World Cup 2019 draw

Pool A: Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Europe 1, play-off winner

Pool B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Africa 1, repachage winner

Pools C: England, France, Argentina, Americas 1, Oceania 2

Pool D: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Oceania 1, Americas 2

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