It is just around the corner, and the excitement for it is building day by day. The rugby world cup kicks off on 18th September at England’s Twickenham stadium. As part of our build up to the world’s biggest rugby tournament, I wanted to go back and remember some of the greatest moments and matches of past world cups. Hopefully you can join in with some of your favourites, too!
1999 – France 43 – 31 New Zealand
The rugby world cup in 1999 was held in Wales, but matches were played in England, Scotland, France and Ireland as well. The vast majority of the rugby world was anticipating All Black domination of the tournament, and the semi final between France and New Zealand was considered a formality in the All Blacks march towards the trophy.
What followed is considered to be the greatest match in world cup history.
France predictably fell behind and were losing 24-10. Everything was going to plan for the All Blacks, who had scored two tries through their greatest asset Jonah Lomu. They were not in cruise control, but they were far enough ahead that it was safe to assume they were going to the final.
That was when Christophe Lamaison scored two drop goals followed by two penalties in quick succession, allowing the French to tear their way back into the game and give them a genuine chance of progressing.
The All Blacks needed to regroup and come at the French once again. After all, this was New Zealand. If anyone could do it, it was them.
Instead, they fell apart.
The French capitalised on this, and scored three classy tries to seal the win and produce the best comeback in world cup history.
1995 – South Africa 15 – 12 New Zealand
No-one could have written a better script
These were the words and thoughts of South Africa captain Francois Pienaar following the incredible victory over New Zealand at Ellis Park in the final of the 1995 world cup. He was absolutely right.
The story of the world cup was one of a united nation, a dawning of a new era for South Africa. But the team of the world cup, at least coming into it, was once again the All Blacks. Jonah Lomu was at the peak of his career, but New Zealand had other equally impressive players, like Andrew Mehrtens and Sean Fitzpatrick. Players that could burst through any opposition and upset any rugby nation.
In front of 63,000 fans at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, New Zealand had come to finish the job many had expected of them.
All that stood in their way was South Africa.
The All Blacks had gone into the second half 9-6 down. Both teams had done well to produce defensive master-classes, each trying to outwit and outmanoeuvre their opponent. But South Africa had the will of a nation behind them. A nation that for the first time stood together. The match went into extra time, with both teams scoring penalties. The Springboks finally shifted the game in their favour in the second half of extra time, with Joel Stransky scoring the drop goal that handed them the famous trophy.
2003 – Australia 17 – 20 England
Ask any England fan where they were when they beat the Aussies in the final of the 2003 world cup and you will get an exact answer from every single one. The 2003 tournament was held in Australia, and the Wallabies were the holders, winning the previous world cup in 1999.
England had come into it as slight favourites, but South Africa, Australia and of course New Zealand were expected to show up strongly.
In the semi finals, Australia had steam-rolled rivals New Zealand 22 – 10, and from then on were considered the favourites for the Webb Ellis Trophy. The final was to be held in Sydney, in front of 82,000 fans.
The stage was set for a dream Australia victory, against their arch rivals England, and in front of their own fans.
But England had other plans. As the rain poured down, England proved their might, and fought tooth and nail to stay in the game while all around them the Australians roared. The game was thrilling, and both teams pushed hard to take it into extra time.
And just 26 seconds from the end, Johnny Wilkinson produced the drop goal that sealed the most memorable result in English rugby history.
2007 – France 12 – 17 Argentina
The 2007 tournament was hosted by France, and the opening match was held in the Stade de France, with 80,000 fans crammed in. Argentina were the opposition, a nation that had only ever showed flashes of promise.
France were expected to get their world cup bid off to a flying start, but what followed was Argentina finally coming of age, and producing a run that would see them get further than they had ever done before.
The match began with a nervous looking France making a few errors, and the Pumas duly pounced, making them pay with a first half try scored by Ignacio Corleto (above).
France continued to play with nervous energy, and those nerves soon transferred to the crowd at the Stade de France. This was not how it was supposed to be.
Argentina executed their game-plan in the second half perfectly: lightning counter attacks coupled with a monstrous defensive display. They beat the hosts 17 – 12 and produced more stunning results throughout the tournament to reach the semi finals for the first time in their history. After the game, Argentina’s captain Agustin Pichot summed it up:
Argentina should be proud. I think we do exist
2007 – South Africa 15 – 6 England
The English were the defending champions coming into the 2007 world cup. Feelings were good in the England camp, and despite being on a poor run of form entering the tournament, back home they remained quietly confident of becoming the first nation to ever retain the trophy.
South Africa, on the other hand, were on a good run of form prior to the world cup. They carried this into the group stages, where they demolished England 36-0, before beating Fiji and Argentina in the quarter and semi finals.
The stage was set for a classic meeting between two giants of rugby.
The first half was a cagey affair, and the Springboks headed into the break 9-3 up.
England sparked into life at the beginning of the second half, however, and Mark Cueto went achingly close to scoring a memorable try. A pair of penalties from both sides saw the scores stay fairly close at 12-6. In the end, though, Francois Steyn scored a fantastic long range penalty, and the boks became only the second side to win the world cup twice.
This article was written for Life Retreat.
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