England have been warned that they under-estimate a struggling Wales at their peril.
Wales were vying to be top seeds for the 2015 World Cup after their Six Nations grand slam in the Spring and their run to the World Cup semi-final just a few months earlier.
But following the Red Dragon’s tale of woe in the summer and autumn campaigns, compared with the gloss finish Stuart Lancaster’s side applied with their trouncing of New Zealand, the tables have turned.
Warren Gatland’s side fell all the way into the third pot of seeds ahead of yesterday’s draw which has pitted them against old enemy England and Australia.
But Gatland has warned that Wales fear no one; not now, nor three years down the line.
“From our experience, the tougher the group the better,” said Gatland, who could also be naming a side to face Fiji in 2015 if, as expected, they are the top Oceania side.
“We have put ourselves in this situation, but our experiences from 2011 tell us if you are in a tough group and you come out of it you are in a good position for the quarter-finals and semi-finals.
“If you look at previous World Cups, teams have come unstuck being in easier groups. It has sometimes been the undoing of New Zealand because they don’t get tested enough in the pool stages.
“So, whoever comes out of our group, and let’s not discount Fiji, is going to be in good shape physically and very well prepared.”
Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium is contracted to host eight games in the World Cup but with Wales drawn with primary hosts England, the odds of them playing all their games in their intimidating home ground are diminished.
But Gatland says they will happily meet England where-ever.
“We know England well and have both won at each other’s venue,” said the man who will lead the British and Irish Lions in Australia next summer.
“We have had some success (at Twickenham) and it is not a venue we are afraid of playing in.”
Wales captain Sam Warburton added: “There is enough rivalry between Wales and England without it being the World Cup.
“From a player’s point of view we are guaranteed to play in front of a packed house against England which is really exciting.”