By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) - The draw for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France will take place in Paris on Dec. 14 using seedings based on the world rankings taken after last year's tournament, organisers said on Friday.
Officials said it was the "least-worst option" following the disruption of the international calendar in 2020.
However, recognising the potential for major swings in form and personnel over such a long period, the Rugby World Cup Board has also recommended that the draw for future tournaments should take place no earlier than one year before the event.
Twelve teams have automatically qualified owing to a top-three place in their 2019 World Cup pools -- champions South Africa, England, Wales, New Zealand, Japan, France, Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Argentina and Fiji.
The remaining eight teams will come through the regional qualification process.
The rankings for the draw have South Africa, New Zealand, England and Wales in the top band. Ireland, Australia, France, and Japan are in Band Two, with Scotland, Argentina, Fiji and Italy in Band Three. Bands Four and Five consist of qualifiers.
"While COVID-19 means that, in the interests of fairness for all qualified teams, we have needed to draw a line under the rankings at the beginning of the year, everyone should appreciate that this is a unique time.
"We can’t delay and we must continue to accelerate planning for what is going to be a truly spectacular and special Rugby World Cup 2023 in France," World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, Editing by Ken Ferris)