Scotland will avoid South Africa, France and Wales at the Rugby World Cup in 2019 after hanging on to fifth spot in the world rankings.

Saturday’s 29-0 victory over Italy ensured Vern Cotter bowed out with his side still in the nation’s highest-ever place in the order put together by governing body World Rugby.

The rankings take on extra significance this year as they are used to determine the seedings for May's draw for the World Cup to be held in Japan in two years’ time.

Loading article content

The Scots were desperate to avoid dropping out of the top eight to give them the chance of a better pool at the finals.

And, having stayed in fifth after a third Six Nations win at the weekend, they now know who they can and cannot face from the countries to have qualified automatically for Japan.

Scotland will be in the second seeds for the draw, along with France, South Africa and Wales, who occupy sixth, seventh and eighth in the rankings, respectively.

It means they will face one of New Zealand, England, Australia or Ireland from the top seeds and one from Argentina, hosts Japan, Georgia and Italy in ‘band three’.

With Gregor Townsend taking over as head coach from Cotter this summer, much can change over the next two years, but Scotland may prefer to draw Ireland from the top seeds after beating them in the first game of this year’s Six Nations.

They will be happy to have avoided the Springboks, who they lost to during the pool stage of the World Cup in 2015, and will probably want to avoid Argentina from the third seeds as they eye the ideal draw.

The seedings for the RWC 2019 draw are:

Band 1: New Zealand, England, Australia, Ireland

Band 2: Scotland, France, South Africa, Wales

Band 3: Argentina, Japan, Georgia, Italy

The latest World Rugby rankings are:

1. New Zealand, 2. England, 3. Australia, 4. Ireland, 5. Scotland, 6, France, 7. South Africa, 8. Wales, 9. Argentina, 10. Fiji.