The Rugby World Cup 2019 schedule was announced last night in slight pageantry in Tokyo. The opening game was revealed with dignitaries and media on the edge of their seats...Japan vs Europe 1.
Wow. What a way to start the tournament. Old rivals Japan and Europe 1 going at it once again. Will Europe 1 be able to exact revenge from that brutal encounter against the Brave Blossoms at the last World Cup?
That's the issue with releasing a draw almost two years before the event. There are still five spots yet to be filled through qualification.
Unfortunately for the All Blacks they have two teams in their group yet to be named - Africa 1 and Repechage winner. All we know so far is on Wednesday October 2, many New Zealanders will be staying up past midnight to watch the All Blacks put at least 50 points on a team.
Not knowing the opponents when a draw made is nothing new.
The same thing happened in December 2012 when the draw was announced for the 2015 World Cup. At the time the All Blacks were drawn with Europe 1 and Africa 1 which turned into Georgia and Namibia and easy victories
So who will be 'Repechage winner' and 'Africa 1' in 2019?
Thankfully World Rugby released a very handy graphic to explain how the repechage entrant will be decided. The fact it resembles a Tokyo train map is either coincidence or all part of World Rugby's devious plan to confuse fans even more.
Africa 1 is easier to explain. Six teams - Namibia, Morocco, Kenya, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe - will play in the Africa Gold Cup next year. The winner advances to the World Cup as Africa 1 while the second placed team goes through to the repechage tournament.
Namibia are favourites after winning this year's edition of the tournament. It will either be Namibia against as the All Blacks group opponents or possibly Kenya.
The Repechage, which in French literally means 'fishing out again', is a bit harder to predict.
Four teams will play in a round-robin Repechage tournament, where each team will play each other once. Those sides will be the African Gold Cup runner-up, the America's Round 4 loser, Europe/Oceania play-off loser and the Asia/Oceania play-off winner. After a bit of form guide searching and going off World Rugby rankings those four teams could/should/possibly might be Kenya, Canada, Spain and Hong Kong.
Spain are the higher ranked team of the four so pencil them in as the All Blacks opponents in pool B.
But Samoa are still in the equation. After finishing behind Fiji and Tonga in the Pacific qualifying, Samoa now need to win the Europe/Oceania play-off, probably against Spain, to make the World Cup. A defeat in that game and Samoa will play in the repechage tournament.
A tournament they would win to set up being in the same pool as New Zealand for the first time.