Argentina lurks as dangerous floater in Rugby World Cup draw

FILE - This is a Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015  file photo of Argentina's Juan Imhoff, no. 11, as he celebrates scoring a try with teammates during the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal match between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. The prospect of New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina being in the same pool at the next Rugby World Cup could soon become a reality. The draw for the pool stage of the 2019 tournament will take place in Kyoto, Japan, on Wednesday May 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland/file)

New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina all in the same pool at the next Rugby World Cup?

The prospect could soon become a reality.

The draw for the pool stage of the 2019 tournament will take place in Kyoto, Japan, on Wednesday, and one of the four five-team groups is almost guaranteed to be a headline-grabber.

Argentina, a semifinalist in 2007 and ’15, has dropped to ninth place in the world rankings, meaning the Pumas will be among the third-seeded teams for the draw at the State Guest House.

That’s the fate that befell the Welsh ahead of the 2015 draw, and they were pitted against host team England, two-time winner Australia, and Fiji in what was regarded at the time as the toughest pool in the 28-year history of the Rugby World Cup.

It could get even tougher.

Argentina will be drawn alongside one of defending champion New Zealand, England, Australia and Ireland from the band of first seeds, and one of Scotland, France, South Africa and Wales in the band of second seeds.

It leaves open the possibility that three teams from the Rugby Championship could be drawn in the same pool, with either New Zealand or Australia potentially in with South Africa and Argentina.

Japan, the first host team from Asia, is among the third seeds and also faces getting picked in a tough group.

Twelve teams have qualified directly for Wednesday’s draw, courtesy of finishing in the top three in their pools at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The other eight teams will come through global qualifying, which started last year.

The draw takes place 2 1/2 years ahead of the Rugby World Cup to allow organizers time to sort out the match schedule and ticketing, confirm venues, and arrange base camps. The tournament runs from Sept. 20-Nov. 2, 2019.

”It is the first time that the pool draw has been hosted outside of the UK or Ireland,” said Akira Shimazu, chief executive of Japan’s organizing committee, ”and we are determined to make the most of this opportunity to showcase the very best of Japan to the world, and the best of rugby to Japan.”

Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80