Defending champions England will face a World Cup rematch with South Africa when France hosts the tournament in 2007.
Wednesday's draw for the sixth World Cup threw up an intriguing prospect of England tackling the Springboks and possibly Samoa during their bid to retain the Webb Ellis Cup.
England, who were crowned world champions with victory over Australia in Sydney last November, have been drawn alongside South Africa, Oceania 1, Americas 3 and Repechage 2.
Samoa, who pushed England all the way in a thrilling Melbourne clash last October, are likely to top the Oceania qualifying section with Canada or the USA probably filling Americas 3 and the Repechage 2 likely to be Tonga.
If England are to win a second-successive World Cup they will again have to do it the hard way.
Wales, whose new coach Mike Ruddock attended Wednesday's draw in Dublin, were grouped in Pool B alongside two-time world champions Australia, Oceania 2 (probably Fiji) Americas 2 (probably Canada or USA) and Asia 1, effectively Japan.
Ruddock's men will play two of their group games in Wales, including the match against the Wallabies.
Scotland, meanwhile, have landed New Zealand, Europe 1 (probably Italy), Europe 2 (probably Romania) and Repechage 1.
Like Wales, Scotland will also play two matches on home soil but that will not apply to Ireland, whose big game in Pool D will be against the hosts France.
Also in Pool D are Americas 1 (probably Argentina), Europe 3 (possibly Georgia) and Africa 1 (possibly Morocco).
French Rugby Federation president Bernard Lapasset conducted the draw in tandem with Rugby World Cup chairman Dr Syd Millar.
"France had proved over the last few years, with the soccer World Cup in 1998 as well as the athletics world championships in 2003, its capacity to put in place and organise successful major international sporting events," said Lapasset.
"This is the path we have chosen to showcase, once more, the experience our nation has acquired for this unique international competition that will be the sixth Rugby World Cup."
Last year England beat South Africa 25-6, a victory that put them on course for a quarter-final appointment with Wales, and if form holds true - the tournament is more than 1,000 days away - then they could end up facing a quarter-final repeat against Wales.
England face South Africa at Twickenham in November and open their 2005 RBS 6 Nations campaign against Wales in Cardiff.
As head coach Stuart Lancaster polishes the axe he will soon wield over his World Cup training squad, Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter has backed Jack Nowell, Henry Slade and Luke Cowan-Dickie to be given a stay of execution.
Italy Under-20s held off a late Samoa blitz to retain their place in the World Rugby U20 Championship on Saturday and head coach Alessandro Troncon believes the experience will have served as a valuable lesson for his young troops.