The 2019 Rugby World Cup draw takes place later tonight where the All Blacks will discover their opponents for the first phase of the tournament.

As a top seed the three-time World Cup winners can't be drawn in the same group as England, Australia and Ireland. The next band of teams makes interesting reading with either France, South Africa, Scotland or Wales being pitted against New Zealand.

Argentina then lurk as potential opponents in the next group of teams after falling to ninth in the World Rugby rankings.

What's the best result for the All Blacks? An easy ride or a few tough games during pool play. The Herald's Chris Rattue and Cameron McMillan pick their desired opponents for the All Blacks.


Band 2 (Scotland, France, South Africa, Wales)

Chris Rattue: WALES

A likely re-match of sorts with Lions coach Warren Gatland, which could add friction. Who knows what state South African rugby will be in, so Wales represents the best chance of a tough game in this band, and the All Blacks need tough games. It's hard to talk about the All Blacks at the moment without it sounding like New Zealand rugby arrogance, but there is daylight between them and most of the rest of the rugby world. One hurdle would be soft pool games leading to an off day against a good side in the quarter-finals. Scotland and one-time nemesis France are less likely to provide that test.

Cameron McMillan: SOUTH AFRICA

I agree with the 'tough games in pool play' theory and the Springboks provide that in a physical sense at least. The Springboks are in all sorts of disarray and haven't beaten the All Blacks since 2014. It may seem the rivalry is dead - the 'Boks are 2-13 since winning three straight over New Zealand in 2009 - but the All Blacks have been dominant against all teams over that time. In that respect, all rivalries are dead.

A lot has changed since their semifinal two years ago but it was the only time during the All Blacks' World Cup campaign that the champions were tested for a full 80 minutes. This was after the South Africans were written off following their shock pool defeat to Japan. And sure they meet twice a year, but the All Blacks play every team on a regular basis (apologies Scotland).

Band 3 (Argentina, Japan, Georgia, Italy)

Chris Rattue: JAPAN

No, it's not necessarily the toughest opponent from this band. Then again, it could be. The Sunwolves are showing a surprising resilience and Japan did beat South Africa in the last World Cup. The All Blacks always seem to play Italy at World Cups (yawn), and the match against Georgia in 2015 was about as ugly as ugly rugby gets. That leaves Argentina as probably the best opponent for the All Blacks here, but Japan at home has some romance, mystique. The downside - it would make Japan's path a lot tougher, a negative for the tournament.

Cameron McMillan: ARGENTINA

Sure All Blacks v Japan would make a great opening game of the tournament (hosts v defending champions) but as a sporting spectacle the pool matches can get pretty dour. Especially if the All Blacks draw a line-up of Scotland, Georgia and Namibia. The Argentinians gave the All Blacks a decent opening test in 2015 and I welcome a repeat fixture. An All Blacks-South Africa-Argentina group with a potential clash against England as early as possible would be the most intriguing outcome from tonight's draw.