New Zealand's All Blacks are the defending champions, following victory in the 2011 and 2015 competitions. However, fellow Southern Hemisphere nations Australia and South Africa will join Northern Hemisphere powerhouses such as England, Ireland, France, Wales and Scotland in attempts to prevent the three-peat from the Kiwis.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be the ninth Rugby World Cup, and is to be held in Japan from 20 September to 2 November. This will be the first time the tournament is to be held in Asia, the first time that a different logo (based on the World Rugby logo, rather than a stylised rugby ball) will be used, and also the first time that the event will take place outside the traditional heartland of rugby union.
Hong Kong and Singapore had expressed interest in hosting some of the matches and were included as part of the JRFU's successful original hosting bid to World Rugby but were not amongst the fourteen locations announced by organisers Japan 2019 on 5 November 2014 that had formally bid for the right to host games.
The opening match of the 2019 Rugby World Cup will take place at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Chōfu, Tokyo, and the final match will be held at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture. These venue assignments were announced in September 2015 when plans for the tournament were revised by Japan's organizing committee and accepted by World Rugby. The National Olympic Stadium, being rebuilt for the 2020 Summer Olympics, was originally the centerpiece of Japan's Rugby World Cup bid, but revisions to the Olympic Stadium plans mandated the World Cup venue changes.
The pool draw took place on 10 May 2017 in Kyoto. The draw was moved from its traditional place of December in the year following the previous World Cup, after the November internationals, so that nations had a longer period of time to increase their World Rankings ahead of the draw.
The seeding system from previous Rugby World Cups was retained with the 12 automatic qualifiers from 2015 being allocated to their respective bands based on their World Rugby Rankings on the day of the draw:
Band 1: The four highest-ranked teams
Band 2: The next four highest-ranked teams
Band 3: The final four directly qualified teams
The remaining two bands were made up of the eight qualifying teams, with allocation to each band being based on the previous Rugby World Cup playing strength:
Band 4: – Oceania 1, Americas 1, Europe 1, Africa 1
Band 5: – Oceania 2, Americas 2, Play-off Winner, Repechage Winner
This meant the 20 teams, qualified and qualifiers, were seeded thus (World Ranking as of 10 May 2017):
New Zealand (1) England (2) Australia (3) Ireland (4) Scotland (5) France (6) South Africa (7) Wales (8) Argentina (9) Japan (11) Georgia (12) Italy (15) Fiji (Oceania 1) United States (Americas 1) Russia (Europe 1) Namibia (Africa 1) Tonga (Oceania 2) Uruguay (Americas 2) Samoa (Play-off) Canada (Repechage)
The draw saw a representative randomly draw a ball from a pot, the first drawn ball goes to Pool A, the second Pool B, the third Pool C and the fourth Pool D. The draw began with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe draw the pool of which hosts Japan were allocated to. The draw continued on to Band 5, drawn by Japanese Olympian Saori Yoshida, followed by Band 4, drawn by former Japanese rugby international Yoshihiro Sakata, then Band 3, drawn by All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen with the first team being drawn being allocated to Pool B, Band 2, drawn by Mayor of Yokohama Fumiko Hayashi and finally Band 1, drawn by World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont.
The Webb Ellis Cup, which the 20 nations will play for, is named after William Webb Elllis, the man who - according to rugby folklore - picked up a football and ran with it, so creating the game of rugby we all love.