2 Dec 2008

All Blacks grouped with France in 2011 World Cup

3:29 pm on 2 December 2008

The All Blacks have been drawn in the same pool as their old foes France for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

New Zealand, likely to start favourites despite not winning the tournament since their 1987 triumph, have been knocked out twice by France, including the quarter-final upset in Cardiff last year.

It is the first time in the history of the competition that the French have been grouped with a Tri-Nations team. Also in New Zealand's pool will be Tonga and qualifiers from the Americas and Asia.

New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Jock Hobbs would like to see the All Blacks play France in the opening match of the tournament at Eden Park. Mr Hobbs said that would be an outstanding start to the tournament.

Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden said an opening match against France was a possibility, but the other option would be a New Zealand-Tonga game.

"The way we're thinking about trying to deliver something that is uniquely New Zealand, that's got a reasonable amount of traction as well, so I guess that's just something we'll work through over the next few weeks."

All Blacks coach Graham Henry said being drawn with France will create a lot of public and media interest which will be great for the game. He said he would take the memory of last year's quarter-final loss to France "to the grave".

Holders South Africa were grouped with Six Nations champions Wales and Fiji while twice winners Australia were pooled with Ireland and Italy.

World Cup rugby finalists England avoided the three Tri-Nations teams in the draw for the 2011 tournament on Monday when they were grouped with Argentina, and Scotland.

The four semi-finalists from last year's tournament came from the two toughest pools.

The knockout format ensures that teams that qualify from the same pool cannot meet again until the final, as happened last year with South Africa and England.

No team that finished second in their pool have gone on to win the World Cup.