Australia face arguably their toughest road yet to Rugby World Cup glory after drawing England and Wales in the pool stages of the 2015 tournament.
The Wallabies now face pool matches at two of the most intimidating northern hemisphere rugby venues - potentially playing host nation England at Twickenham and Wales at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, after the Welsh Rugby Union agreed to host some tournament fixtures.
The draw, which took place at London's Tate Modern art gallery, means one of international rugby's traditionally top nations will not make it through to the quarter-finals.
It also pits the three sides against the top non-automatically qualified Pacific nation, which will probably be Fiji.
The try by Wallabies playmaker Kurtley Beale in the final 20 seconds against Wales in Cardiff made this draw possible. Beale's try ensured the Wallabies a 14-12 victory and also sent Wales out of the top eight in the world rankings and into the third tier of seeds for the World Cup.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said the draw could be seen as the toughest in the competition, but there was no simple path through to the final.
"When you look at the sides and you look at history that's an easy suggestion to make, but they're all tough," Deans said. "The fact of the matter is once you get into the tournament there's no such thing as an easy draw."
"It's a pretty tough pool," England coach Stuart Lancaster said. "Wales, I've got a huge amount of respect for what they've done recently. Australia have just beaten us and are an incredibly competitive nation. We'll look forward to it in a few years' time."
Australia has not met England in the pool stages of a Rugby World Cup since facing them at Concord Oval in Sydney during the inaugural tournament in 1987. The Wallabies won that match 19-6 and advanced through the knock-out stages before losing to France 30-24 in the semi-final. England lost to Wales in the quarter-finals before Wales beat Australia 22-21 in the third-place playoff.
Australia beat England in the final of the 1991 tournament, but have since had no luck against their arch rival, losing the final in Sydney in 2003 and two quarter-finals in 1995 and 2007.
Wales and Australia have played each other twice in the pool stages, both times in Cardiff in 1991 and in 2007, with the Wallabies victorious on both occasions.
The Wallabies also beat both sides in their spring tour matches played over the past three weeks. Australia beat Wales 14-12 at Cardiff on Saturday, their eighth straight win over the side and their fourth this year.
A fortnight earlier they bounced back from an ugly defeat at the hands of France with a 20-14 win against England at Twickenham. However, England sent an ominous warning on Sunday after they upset the world champion All Blacks 38-21.
Wallabies flanker David Pocock said it was impossible to predict how the fortunes of any side would pan out over the next three years.
"Having the host nation in your pool is going to create a bit of a buzz, particularly around that game," Pocock said.
"As Robbie said there's going to be no easy games and to win the tournament you have to beat the best and deal with what you're dealt."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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