10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
From an Irish viewpoint, they once again will have to face the host nation (France) and almost certainly Argentina in Pool D and coach Eddie O'Sullivan had a grin on his face when he said, "I thanked Syd (Millar, chairman of the IRB) personally after the draw for his contribution to Irish rugby." A reference to Syd Millar, Chairman of the IRB, who along with Bernard Lapasset conducted the draw.
O'Sullivan went on to say, ""We're back in again at the deep end. I suppose really it's a case of dijy vu. We shouldn't get too carried away at the moment, we're still three years away so we'll see how the dust settles in three years' time."
French captain, lock Fabien Pelous said that his country had been given a tough draw with Ireland. "Each top seed had to be drawn with a danger team,and we certainly got one in Ireland," said Pelous.
"But what matters is to be at our best for one and a half months in 2007 and if we can do that, we can pull it off."
World champions England were once again paired with South Africa. The two sides enjoyed a bruising pool encounter at last year's finals in Perth, Australia, which Clive Woodward's men won 25-6 before going on to beat Australia in the final.
And four years prior to that they met at the quarter-finals stage with the Springboks getting the better of it on that occasion winning 44-21 in Paris.
They were drawn in Pool A alongside the top side from the Oceania qualifiers, the third team from the Americas zone and the second team from the repechage play-off system.
Pool B saw Australia and Wales drawn together, Pool C has New Zealand and Scotland.
Like O'Sullivan, England forwards coach Andy Robinson used the deja vu theme. "All indications are that Samoa could be the Oceania 1 team and that would see the three of us together again, which would make it pretty much the same (as 2003)."
New Springbok skipper, hooker John Smit, said England against South Africa was becoming something of a World Cup classic. "We face England, who are in our pool once again, at the end of this year and it should be a great clash as anything can happen in a Test match.
"These are exiciting times in SA rugby at the moment with a new coach and a lot of hard work ahead, but there are a lot of positives in our game and we'd certainly like to improve on our current situation."
Wales's new coach Mike Ruddock said that he was delighted with the chance to gain revenge for their defeat by Australia in the 1999 World Cup. "We are extremely excited about the draw we have been dealt for Rugby World Cup 2007," said Ruddock, who was the surprise choice to replace New Zealander Steve Hansen after he left following the Six Nations to take up a coaching post with All Blacks coach Graham Henry.
"It will provide us with a good opportunity to test this Welsh team against one of the World's top sides in double World Champions Australia. The clash with the Aussies will bring back fond memories of the World Cup in 1999 when we ran them close and hopefully we will be in a position to go one better this time."
Scotland's Australian coach Matt Williams claimed to be pretty satisfied with the draw. "It's a pretty good draw, particularly given that we won't be facing Argentina, Fiji (who they beat in injury time in their pool match in the 2003 edition to edge into the quarter-finals or Samoa," said Williams, whose first season in charge saw Scotland end up with the Six Nations wooden spoon as they failed to win one match.
"We've drawn the All Blacks and, in all probability, Italy and we know plenty about both of them. Qualification for the knockout stages of the World Cup isn't easy and to be honest all four pools are tough."
The zonal qualifiers for the finals will get underway later this year, but France and Ireland look likely to get Argentina who are expected to top the Americas zone with Italy going in against New Zealand and Scotland.
Apart from the top eight teams, 10 places will be filled by Europe (3), Americas (3), Oceania (2), Africa (1) and Asia (1). The remaining two spots will be decided by two inter-zone play-offs.
Pool A England, South Africa, Oceania 1, Americas 3, Repechage 2.
Pool B Australia, Wales, Oceania 2, Americas 2, Asia 1.
Pool C New Zealand, Scotland, Europe 1, Europe 2, Repechage 1.
Pool D France, Ireland, Americas 1, Europe 3, Africa 1.
The quarter-final line-up will be decided as follows: Winners A1 v Winners B2; A2 v B1; C1 v D2; C2 v D1.
The 2007 tournament will have 48 matches, beginning on September 7th. Two quarter-finals, both semi-finals and the final on October 20th will be at the Stade de France, with the two other quarter-finals at Cardiff and Marseille.