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 hadbeen given a tough draw with Ireland. "Each top seed had to be drawn with a danger team,and wecertainly got one in Ireland," said Pelous.
"But what matters is to be at our best for one and a halfmonths in 2007 and if we can do that, we can pull it off."
World champions England were once againpaired with South Africa. The two sides enjoyed a bruising pool encounter at last year'sfinals in Perth, Australia, which Clive Woodward's men won 25-6 before going onto beat Australia in the final.
And four years prior to that they met at the quarter-finals stagewith the Springboks getting the better of it on that occasion winning 44-21 inParis.
They were drawn in Pool A alongside the top side from the Oceania qualifiers, the third team from the Americas zone and the second teamfrom the repechage play-off system.
Pool B saw Australia and Wales drawn together, Pool C has NewZealand and Scotland.
Like O'Sullivan, England forwards coachAndy Robinson used the deja vu theme. "All indications are that Samoa could be the Oceania 1 teamand that would see the three of us together again, which would make it pretty muchthe same (as 2003)."
New Springbok skipper, hooker John Smit, said England againstSouth Africa was becoming something of a World Cup classic. "We face England, who are in our pool once again, at the endof 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 anew coach and a lot of hard work ahead, but there are a lot of positives in our gameand we'd certainly like to improve on our current situation."
Wales's new coach Mike Ruddock said that he was delighted with thechance to gain revenge for their defeat by Australia in the 1999 World Cup. "We are extremely excited about the draw we have been dealtfor Rugby World Cup 2007," said Ruddock, who was the surprise choice to replaceNew Zealander Steve Hansen after he left following the Six Nations to take up acoaching post with All Blacks coach Graham Henry.
"It will provide us with a good opportunity to test thisWelsh team against
Scotland's Australian coach Matt Williams claimed to be prettysatisfied with the draw. "It's a pretty good draw, particularly given that we won't befacing 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 woodenspoon as they failed to win one match.
"We've drawn the All Blacks and, in all probability, Italyand we know plenty about both of them. Qualification for the knockout stages ofthe World Cup isn't easy and to be honest all four pools are tough."
The zonal qualifiers for the finals will get underway later thisyear, but France and Ireland look likely to get Argentina who are expected totop 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 twospots 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.