England have been paired with Wales during the group stage draw for next summer's Euro 2016 finals in France. The two old rivals were placed into Group B at the ceremony in Paris, with Slovakia and Russia completing the lineup.
That eagerly-anticipated clash between the home nations, who last met in September 2011 during qualification for the 2012 European Championship, will take place at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens on 16 June. Roy Hodgson's side open their campaign with an intriguing tie against Russia in Marseille five days earlier, while the Welsh kick-off their first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup against Slovakia in Bordeaux.
"There was a very good chance we meet one of the home nations," Hodgson was quoted as saying by The Mail after the draw was complete. "We are really pleased Wales have done so well, it has been exciting following their progress. Two newcomers, if you like, on my cv with Russia and Slovakia and it is a case of doing plenty research between now and June.
"We know the Wales players because all of them basically play in England. The team is very well organised, they have a very strong team spirit and a strong spine. We have a lot of respect for Wales."
As for Northern Ireland, their route through to the knockout stages appears beset with difficulty after Michael O'Neill's men were placed alongside world champions Germany as well as Poland and Ukraine in a tough Group C. The Republic of Ireland fared even worse, meanwhile, drawn with number-one ranked Belgium, Italy and Sweden in Group E.
France will face Romania in the tournament's curtain-raiser at the Stade de France on 10 June. The hosts will likely fancy their chances of comfortably progressing through a relatively straightforward group, similarly Portugal and perhaps even Spain.
Euro 2016 groups
Group A: France, Romania, Albania, Switzerland
Group B: England, Russia, Wales, Slovakia
Group C: Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Northern Ireland
Group D: Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Croatia
Group E: Belgium, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Sweden
Group F: Portugal, Iceland, Austria, Hungary