The image of Richie McCaw hoisting the Webb Ellis Cup aloft at Twickenham 18 months ago may only just be beginning to fade in the minds of many rugby followers worldwide, but the draw for the 2019 Rugby World Cup is set to take place tonight in Kyoto, Japan.

Alex McLeod runs through everything you need to know about the upcoming draw.

What is it?

The draw for the 2019 Rugby World Cup is an event that will determine which nations will play one another in each of the four pools at rugby's global showpiece in two years' time.

Where is it?

The draw will be held at the Kyoto State Guest House. Akira Shimazu, chief executive of Japan's organising committee, said this year's draw would be the first time it would be held outside of the UK and Ireland.

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"We are determined to make the most of this opportunity to showcase the very best of Japan to the world, and the best of rugby to Japan," he said.

When is it?

5pm Wednesday local time, which translates to 8pm tonight New Zealand time.

You can follow our live updates of the draw here.

How does it work?

Like the previous four World Cups, the 2019 RWC will consist of 20 nations divided into four pools of five teams.

The 12 direct qualifiers - the top three teams from each of the four pools at the 2015 RWC - have been seeded into three bands based on where they currently sit on the World Rugby Rankings.

The four highest ranked of these 12 teams have been placed in Band 1, while the next four highest ranked sides have been put into Band 2, and the remaining four direct qualifiers are all in Band 3.

This means that the top three bands heading into the draw looks like this (World Rugby Rankings in brackets):

Band 1 - New Zealand (1), England (2), Australia (3), Ireland (4)
Band 2 - Scotland (5), France (6), South Africa (7), Wales (8)
Band 3 - Argentina (9), Japan (11), Georgia (12), Italy (15)

Former England midfielder Will Greenwood, former World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset, Debbie Jevans, former London mayor Boris Johnson, Maggie Alphonsi, and former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw take part in the 2015 RWC draw. Photo / Getty Images.
Former England midfielder Will Greenwood, former World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset, Debbie Jevans, former London mayor Boris Johnson, Maggie Alphonsi, and former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw take part in the 2015 RWC draw. Photo / Getty Images.

The remaining eight sides to take part in RWC 2019 will be determined through the global qualification process, which began in March last year and will conclude in November 2018.

These teams will be known as:

Oceania 1, Oceania 2 (the top two teams from the 2016-17 Pacific Nations Cup between Fiji, Samoa and Tonga)
Europe 1 (the winner of the 2017-18 Rugby Europe Championship, currently led by Romania)
Americas 1 (the winner of a two-legged play-off between the USA and Canada next month)
Americas 2 (the winner of a two-legged play-off between the loser of the Americas 1 play-off and the winner of the 2017 South American Rugby Championship)
Africa 1 (the winner of the 2018 Africa Cup)
Play-off winner (the winner of a two-legged play-off between the loser of the 2016-17 Pacific Nations Cup and the second-placed team from the Rugby Europe Championship, which is currently Tonga and Spain)
Repechage winner (the winner of a knockout series between the best sides from the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Asia/Oceania play-off* that have not qualified)

Romania currently leads the race to qualify for RWC 2019 as Europe 1. Photo / Getty Images.
Romania currently leads the race to qualify for RWC 2019 as Europe 1. Photo / Getty Images.

These eight teams will be divided into Bands 4 and 5 and will be drawn alongside the 12 countries to have qualified automatically.

In order to ensure the strength of each pool is evenly balanced, one team will be drawn at random from each band and placed into one pool.

This means that every pool will have one team from each band.

* - The Asia/Oceania play-off is a two-legged play-off between the winner of the 2018 Asia Rugby Championship and the winner of the 2017 Oceania Rugby Cup. The winner of this qualifies for the repechage.

What does this mean for the All Blacks?

The All Blacks head into the draw with the prospect of having to face two of their Rugby Championship rivals in 2019.

South Africa and Argentina are both potential candidates to be drawn into the same pool as the New Zealanders, as both countries are in Bands 2 and 3 as the seventh and ninth ranked sides in the world.

While the Pumas are easily the most threatening side the All Blacks could be drawn with from Band 3, Steve Hansen's side should be wary of any side they draw from Band 2.

As one of the most traditional rivals the All Blacks compete against, the Springboks would probably be the team the All Blacks would least likely want to play from Band 2 in the pool stage.

The South Africans are two-time World Cup winners and provided the All Blacks with their sternest test at RWC 2015 in the semi-final, with the eventual champions only going on to win by two points in drizzly conditions.

The Springboks came closest to defeating the All Blacks at the 2015 RWC, eventually falling short in a 20-18 loss at Twickenham. Photo / Getty Images.
The Springboks came closest to defeating the All Blacks at the 2015 RWC, eventually falling short in a 20-18 loss at Twickenham. Photo / Getty Images.

South Africa's national side may have produced their worst ever season in the professional era last year with just four wins from 13 matches, but there is still two and a half years until rugby's pinnacle event kicks off, leaving plenty of time for improvement for the Boks.

After having been underwhelming in recent years, Scotland have proved their worth over the past 18 months.

The Scots were 40 seconds away from clinching a spot in the 2015 RWC semi-finals before wrongfully conceding a penalty by referee Craig Joubert in their quarter-final against Australia, which Bernard Foley converted into a match-winning three points.

Since that valiant effort by the 1991 RWC semi-finalists, they claimed victories over Japan and Argentina in the June and November test windows last year, posted wins against Ireland, Wales and France during the past two Six Nations, and have climbed to fifth in the World Rugby Rankings - an all-time high.

Despite their 62-13 thrashing at the hands of the All Blacks during the last RWC, France are another side that should not be underestimed by the men in black.

Les Bleus have showed plenty of promise since that demoralising defeat, clinching wins over Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the past two Six Nations tournaments, as well as pushing the All Blacks and Wallabies to the limit in November last year.

France defeated Scotland in Paris in this year's Six Nations tournament in February. Photo / Getty Images.
France defeated Scotland in Paris in this year's Six Nations tournament in February. Photo / Getty Images.

All this combined with their two famous RWC victories in 1999 and 2007, and New Zealanders should know not to underestimate the threat they pose.

The 2019 RWC will more than likely be Warren Gatland's swansong as coach of Wales.

At that stage, he will have been their head coach for 12 years, making him by far the longest serving coach in Welsh rugby history.

The Welsh squad will know that, and with some undoubted talent in their ranks via the likes of George North, Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb, they will be looking to send Gatland off on an all-time high at the tournament.

Should they end up placed in the same pool as the All Blacks tomorrow night, the Welsh will be buzzing at the opportunity to send their coach off with a victory over the All Blacks for the first time since 1953.

How can I watch it?

The draw will be streamed live at nzherald.co.nz from 8pm tonight (NZT).