Scotland were yesterday handed the best possible draw for the Rugby World Cup when they were placed in a pool with the only one of the higher-seeded teams that has never beaten them.

Further good news is that they have avoided being in the same half of the draw as New Zealand, the only leading country that Scotland have never beaten.

Instead, the Scots will face South Africa and Samoa in Pool B – both teams they are understood to be facing in South Africa next summer in a tournament that may also include Italy – as well as the top Asian qualifiers, likely to be Japan and the second-best qualifier from the Americas, the USA on current rankings.

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The Scottish Rugby Union was represented at the draw, which took place at London's Tate Modern Gallery, by chief executive Mark Dodson, Gavin Scott, the team manager and Scott Johnson, the attack coach and a contender to take over as interim head coach for the forthcoming Six Nations. Naturally they could not be seen to be too content, given the slide down the rankings that has consigned Scotland to the third tier of seeds, but Scott promised they will be much more competitive when the tournament comes around in three years' time.

"We haven't made things easy for ourselves in terms of our world rankings but I don't think the teams we've been drawn against will like having us in their group either," he said. "The Scotland side they'll face in two years time could be a different animal to the one we've seen recently."

Pool A seems the toughest, with hosts England up against Australia and Wales, two sides who have won at Twickenham this year. Pools C and D have a North/South split, with France, Ireland and Italy together in Pool D, while the All Blacks are joined in Pool C by Tonga, who they faced in last year's opener on their way to winning the trophy, and Rugby Championship rivals Argentina.