On Monday the pool draw for the 2015 World Cup will take place in London at the Tate Modern. Here, we explain how the 20-nation competition will work, and why seedings are so important...
How will the next World Cup work?
The 20 competing teams will split across four groups of five in the round-robin stage. Each nation is seeded based on the current International Rugby Board world rankings, so you get one country from each of the five pots in a group. The top two will progress through to the quarter-finals, but even third place matters - if you finish there you are at least certain of automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
So who is seeded where?
Well, the results of the autumn internationals were crucial as to finding out who would be drawn where. Although England sensationally signed off with a victory over New Zealand, it was not enough to join the reigning world champions in the top tier. Instead, they are ranked fifth. Similarly, Wales' run of seven straight Test defeats has proved costly in their hopes of at least matching their semi-final appearance last year. Kurtley Beale's last-gasp try for Australia in Cardiff condemned them to ninth in the rankings list, fractionally behind Argentina. Scotland are seeded 12th, below both Italy and Tonga.
Tier one: New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and France
Tier two: England, Ireland, Samoa and Argentina
Tier three: Wales, Italy, Tonga and Scotland
As yet, the other eight competitors are still to be determined. They will be...
Tier four: Oceania 1, Europe 1, Asia 1 and Americas 1
Tier five: Africa 1, Europe 2, Americas 2, Repechage winner
So what could be the 'group of death'?
New Zealand, England and Wales are the top seeds in each tier, so any group containing them would be particularly tough. Warren Gatland's side could also come up against France, the side that dashed their hopes of a final appearance in 2011. But all is not lost for Wales - they qualified for the knockout stages last time around from a group that included South Africa and Samoa. Scotland, meanwhile, could be drawn alongside England for a second successive World Cup. They failed to get out of their group for the first time in the tournament's history last time. Ireland topped their pool in New Zealand after managing four wins of four, including a triumph over potential 2015 opponents Australia. Look out for Tonga, too, as they caused an upset in Wellington last year by beating eventual finalists France.
Who is making the draw?
Rugby World Cup chairman Bernard Lapasset, England Rugby 2015 chief executive Debbie Jevans and New Zealand's World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw, among others. And, of course, no event in the capital would be complete these days without the presence of Boris Johnson. Expect the Mayor of London to regale all with stories about his own rugby career at Eton College.