KYOTO - England coach Eddie Jones said he would seek divine intervention after being handed a difficult 2019 Rugby World Cup draw in Kyoto yesterday (May 10).
The 2003 champions were bracketed alongside France and Argentina in Pool C as lightning struck twice, following a brutal draw at the 2015 tournament.
Asked about negotiating what French counterpart Guy Noves described as the "pool of death", Jones joked that he would head for one of Kyoto's famous temples to ask for help.
"I'm going to visit the temples because I need to pray now," the Australian said. "I need to pray really hard."
However, he insisted England would be ready to exorcise the demons of their disastrous 2015 campaign, when they became the first host team to crash out at the pool stage after being drawn with Wales, Australia, Fiji and Uruguay.
"Who's calling it the group of death?" he asked, shortly after Noves and Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade had done just that. "No one's going to die."
Jones has led England to back-to-back Six Nations titles since taking over from Stuart Lancaster.
"It's simple - you've got to prepare well at the World Cup. You've got to beat good teams and we've got two big games against France and Argentina. We'll do that, it's a prospect that we're excited by. Here we go."
England are also set to face either the United States or Canada and Fiji or Samoa in a devilish group.
Twelve teams were included in yesterday's draw by virtue of finishing in the top three of their groups in 2015. Another eight sides from Oceania, Europe, the Americas and Africa will be added after qualifying to complete four groups of five.
New Zealand, bidding for a hat-trick of World Cup titles, face South Africa and Italy in Pool B, while hosts Japan will take on Ireland and Scotland in Pool A.
Australia, twice champions and the 2015 runners-up, will become reacquainted with Wales in Pool D, which also includes 11th-ranked Georgia.
South Africa's slump to seventh in the world means the 1995 and 2007 champions face the All Blacks for the first time in the pool stage of a World Cup.
Steve Hansen, whose All Blacks were barely tested in their pool at the 2015 tournament, said he was pleased to be in a group that would provide "some challenges".
2019 RUGBY WORLD CUP DRAW
Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Europe 1, play-off winner
New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Africa 1, repechage winner
England, France, Argentina, Americas 1, Oceania 2
Australia, Wales, Georgia, Oceania 1, Americas 2
Twelve teams were in yesterday's draw by virtue of having finished in the top three of their groups at the 2015 edition. The other eight teams will be made up of qualifiers.
"(South Africa) are a team that knows us very well, we know them very well and there's a lot of good history between the two teams," he said. "Hopefully we'll both play really great rugby and inspire the tournament to go to a higher level."
Japan will be reunited with the Scots, whom they lost to as they exited in the pool stage in 2015.
The Brave Blossoms stunned South Africa two years ago in England, however, and will certainly not view reaching the knockout stages on home soil as mission impossible.
"Any pool that we were going to get put in was going to be a big challenge," said Japan coach Jamie Joseph, whose side will face the Irish in a Test next month. "But now there's some certainty around it, we can start our planning and we're really looking forward to it."
The ninth Rugby World Cup, the first in Asia, will take place from Sept 20 to Nov 2, 2019.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS