3 Nov 2017

All Blacks to play Springboks in world cup opener

6:54 am on 3 November 2017

The defending Rugby World Cup champions the All Blacks will kick off their 2019 title defence with a heavyweight clash against South Africa, the only first round match that pits former tournament winners against one another.

Hosts Japan will open Asia's first Rugby World Cup against a yet to be determined European side in Pool A, with Ireland next on their schedule. Ireland will play Scotland in their first match.

Organisers have announced the schedule for all 48 matches at the ninth Rugby World Cup, to be held between 20 September and 2 November 2019, as well as their ticketing programme.

Richie McCaw and Dan Carter with the Webb Ellis Cup after winning the Rugby World Cup Final, London, England. Saturday 31 October 2015.

The All Blacks celebrate their 2015 World Cup win. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Brett Gosper, chief executive of World Rugby, said the schedule was designed to maximise rest days and minimise travel time, calling it the "most balanced schedule" for teams in a bid to prioritise performance and competitiveness."

"No tier two team will play a tier one team after a short turnaround. For instance, teams like Tonga and Japan will have the largest number of rest days," he said.

He also noted that no match would start later than 7.45pm in Japan, to maximise attendance and broadcast viewership in key markets.

World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper.

World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper. Photo: Photosport

In Pool C - dubbed the "Pool of Death" - 2003 champions England will open against Tonga, while three-time runners up France will begin their campaign against Argentina.

Twice champions Australia, runners up in 2015, will open Pool D play against Fiji, and Wales will take on Georgia.

In Pool B, Italy will play yet to be determined sides in its first two matches before meeting South Africa and New Zealand.

South Africa coach Allister Coetzee said the Springboks performance against New Zealand in their match last month, a thriller in which they lost by just a point, had given his players confidence.

"We are really excited to meet them first up, there is a great and proud rivalry between the Springboks and All Blacks and judging by past encounters between the two sides, this opening group match is bound to be another massive contest," he said in a statement through SA Rugby.

Tickets will go on sale in phases starting 18 January 2018. Some 1.8 million tickets expected to be available for the 48 matches.

Prices will start at $25 for adults and $13 for children at some pool matches, as organisers aim to draw a strong turnout. Tickets will cost up to $1265 for the final.

- Reuters