Wayne Pivac’s Wales have been given every reason to be optimistic about the 2023 World Cup in France after World Rugby decided to use the rankings as of January 1, 2020, to determine the five bands of teams for this December’s draw, lifting the Welsh back into the top band ahead of current fourth-ranked Ireland.

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Wales had slipped down the rankings with Six Nations defeats to Ireland, France and England. However, with that tournament left incomplete by the outbreak of the pandemic which has also stopped Test action elsewhere in 2020, the game’s governing body decided in the interests of fairness that the rankings at the start of this year should be used for the draw in Paris on December 14. 

Wales had dropped to sixth in the rankings under new boss Pivac, with Ireland rising to fourth and the French in fifth. The Scots had also made a move on the back on the Six Nations, climbing to eighth and pushing the Japanese into ninth spot.   

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However, Friday’s revelation means Wales will keep their No4 ranking and will be in the top band for the World Cup pool draw along with No1 South Africa, No2 New Zealand and No3 England. Ireland, Australia, France and Japan will be in band two, with Scotland paying a heavy price for their 2019 World Cup defeat to the Japanese as they will be in band three along with Argentina, Fiji and Italy.

Band four will consist of Oceania 1, Europe 1, Americas 1, Asia/Pacific 1, with band five containing Africa 1, Europe 2, Americas 2, Final Qualifier winner.

A World Rugby statement read: “Acknowledging the global Covid-19 impact on international rugby in 2020, with some teams not playing this year, and to be fair to all qualified teams, the Rugby World Cup board has decided that the World Rugby rankings as of January 1, 2020, will be used to determine the five bands. This represents the fairest scenario given it was the last time that all teams were able to play.”

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World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “The draw is a key milestone on the journey to Rugby World Cup France 2023 and the time when the tournament truly comes to life for teams and players alike, enabling key operational elements to be undertaken such as venue allocation, optimal match schedule development and, of course, the ticketing programme.

“While Covid-19 means that, in the interests of fairness for all qualified teams, we have needed to draw a line under the rankings at the beginning of the year, everyone should appreciate that this is a unique time, we can’t delay, and we must continue to accelerate planning for what is going to be a truly spectacular and special Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.”

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