UPDATE 1-Rugby-Holders New Zealand handed kind World Cup draw

(Adds details, quotes)

LONDON, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Holders New Zealand will play Argentina, Tonga and two qualifiers after the draw was made for the 2015 rugby World Cup on Monday, but hosts England were handed a tougher task.

England, winners in 2003 and runners up four years later, were among the second tier of seeds and were paired with Australia and Six Nations rivals Wales.

"It is definitely a pretty tough pool," England coach Stuart Lancaster said. "To win the World Cup you have to win big games and I have got a huge amount of respect for what Wales have done recently.

"We know their squad pretty well, it is a young side and a lot of them will still be around in 2015. Australia have just beaten us and if you look at the age and profile of their squad, they have got some young lads as well. We will look forward to it."

One crumb of comfort for England is that should they win their pool they are now unlikely to play world champions New Zealand, who they dismantled 38-21 at Twickenham on Saturday, until the final.

South Africa were paired alongside Samoa for the fourth consecutive World Cup and Scotland, while fourth seeds France will face Ireland and Italy.

It is also the fourth occasion Tonga have been drawn in the pool stages with New Zealand after they were thrown together in 1999, 2003 and 2011.

New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and France were kept apart as the four top seeds in the IRB rankings heading into the draw, while eight teams have yet to qualify.

The World Cup will get underway on Sept. 18, 2015, with the final to be held at Twickenham on Oct. 31. (Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by Justin Palmer)

MOST POPULAR IN SPORTS