All Blacks could face South Africa and Argentina at RWC as rankings cutoff reached
South Africa and Argentina lurk as potential "pool of death" groupmates for the All Blacks at the next Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019.
The last weekend of international rugby was notable not just for deciding the Six Nations' final pecking order, a potential historic second straight Grand Slam and England's tilt at outright ownership of the record for consecutive victories by a tier-one nation.
It was also the cutoff point for the world rankings that will determine the seedings bands of four for the next RWC, with the draw to take place on May 10 in Kyoto.
The top four sides (guaranteed to be in different pools in Japan), determined after the weekend's action, are (in order) New Zealand, England, Australia and Ireland. That's a fair-ish reflection of current trends in the game, though of course may have no relevance come 2019.
The next four, who will form the second band of pool sides, is where it gets interesting. In order, Scotland, France, South Africa and Wales occupy spots five through eight, with the Welsh nudging out Argentina for the final position.
The Pumas head the final tier of seedings at ninth, ahead of Fiji, Japan and Georgia.
All of that means there is the potential for the All Blacks to be drawn in a southern hemisphere pool of death alongside the Springboks and Pumas, much like the group England found themselves in at their own World Cup in 2015 when they were pitted alongside Australia and Wales and failed to make it to the knockout stages.
Wherever Argentina land in the final draw is likely to be granted "pool of death" status for the 2019 tournament, with the South Americans the side the big guns will all be hoping to avoid.
The All Blacks, three times champions, have never lost a pool match at a Rugby World Cup and have never played in the same pool as the Springboks at a World Cup. They have shared a group with Scotland (2007), France (2011) and Wales (1995 and 2003).
The New Zealanders' most frequent poolmates have been Italy (four times), while they have also been grouped alongside Argentina, England and Wales twice each.
Steve Hansen's All Blacks will be bidding for an historic threepeat of RWC titles in Japan.
Rugby world rankings at the cutoff point for RWC draw:
1 New Zealand
7 South Africa