Scotland’s failure to get out of their pool in the 2019 Rugby World Cup means they face another challenging group in France in 2023 after the seedings for December’s draw were confirmed.
The Scots are in the third band of seeds, meaning they could face last year’s hosts Japan, whose win over Gregor Townsend’s side last year denied them a place in the knockout stages for only the second time since 1987.
Ireland, France and Australia are also in the second bracket of seeds with Japan, while Argentina, Fiji and Italy make up the rest of the third seeds.
The four top-seeded nations are England, Wales, South Africa and New Zealand.
The remaining eight places will be filled by qualifiers in bands four and five, with the draw taking place in Paris on 14 December.
World Rugby announced yesterday that world rankings as of 1 January this year were used to decide the seeding bands.
Rankings at the end of this year’s initial autumn Tests schedule were going to be the original criteria. But the coronavirus pandemic ripped apart the planned autumn fixture list, with a Nations Cup tournament being convened instead for the northern hemisphere’s Test programme in November and early December.
World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “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.
“The RWC 2023 draw will be a greatly-anticipated beacon of hope and excitement as we look towards France 2023 and beyond the global pandemic.”
The latest world rankings list was published on 9 March and Scotland were eighth on that list.
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