England could face another Group of Death in 2019 after World Cup officials refused to promise an overhaul of their controversial seeding system.
The ranking-based draw for this year’s tournament was made almost three years ago, with England, Fiji, Wales and Australia all since experiencing significant fluctuations.
There is pressure to stage the next draw closer to 2019 but – with England currently one ranking away from ‘tier three’ – organisers said it could result in lower ticket sales.
‘The challenge in Japan is there is an Olympic Games in 2020,’ said head of Rugby World Cup Alan Gilpin.
‘We would all like it to be much closer to the tournament from a competition point of view, but there are some realities of taking Rugby World Cup to a new market and we have to be sensible.’
Both Wales and Fiji moved up a ‘tier’ after the 2015 draw was made, with England coach Stuart Lancaster backing Warren Gatland’s calls for draw reforms.
‘It would make sense, wouldn’t it?’ said Lancaster. ‘The closer to the tournament the draw is, the more reflective it is of the current standings – it’ s fairly obvious, isn’t it? Teams change and cycles in rugby change, so closer to the tournament would be sensible.’
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