Ever since the inaugural tournament in 1987, the Rugby World Cup has been a showcase for some of the most talented players to ever grace the game. In the competition’s relatively short but rich history there have been upsets, fantastic tries, dramatic late clinchers and stunning individual performances.
Jonah Lomu steamrolls England – RWC 1995
Man-mountain Jonah Lomu burst onto the scene in the 1995 World Cup with an unstoppable performance against England in the semi-final. At 6ft 5in and 19 stone the young New Zealander pulverised the English defense, running through them like they weren’t even there. Mike Catt will be testament to this, as he was flattened in the wake of Lomu scoring the first of his four tries in the game.
Les Bleus fight back against New Zealand – RWC 1999
When tournament favorites New Zealand went up against France in the 1999 semi-final, everybody expected a routine victory for the Johah Lomu inspired All Blacks. Things seemed to be going to plan when New Zealand found themselves with an early 24-10 lead, but France clearly hadn’t read the script, dismantling the favorites by scoring 33 points without reply. Jeff Wilson managed to score a consolation try, but it wasn’t enough to prevent one of the greatest upsets in Rugby World Cup history, with France winning 43-31.
Ngwenya leaves Habana for dead – RWC 2007
In one of the tries of the tournament, the USA’s Takudzwa Ngwenya rocketed past supposed fastest player in the world Bryan Habana, much to the shock of the South African. It wasn’t enough to prevent a victory for the Springboks but provided the 2007 World Cup with one of its most memorable moments.
Haka vs. Sipi Tau – RWC 2011
The 2011 Rugby World Cup was started in style when New Zealand and Tonga faced off against each other with their pre-match rituals, the Haka and the Sipi Tau. By the time both teams had finished their traditional war dances, it’s safe to say not a single person in the stadium didn’t have goosebumps.
Jonny Wilkinson kicks a last minute winner – RWC 2003
Jonny Wilkinson won the game in the 2003 final with a late kick taken on his weaker right foot. There were only 20 seconds left on the clock, and it was enough for England to win their first ever Rugby World Cup, with a narrow victory of 20-17. Simply an unforgettable moment for English rugby fans and one that the Wallabies would like to forget.
Western Samoa shock Wales – RWC 1991
Wales, and the rest of the world of rugby, were stunned when massive underdogs Western Samoa pulled off a shock victory over the Welsh in the group stages of the 1991 tournament, coming out on top in a closely contested match that ended 16-13. Wales were playing at home and expected to win easily, but the Samoans had different ideas.
John Kirwan’s solo try – RWC 1987
In the first ever Rugby World Cup match, hosts New Zealand demolished Italy with a convincing 70-6 win. The highlight of the match was John Kirwan’s solo try, in which he rounded half of the opposition team after receiving the ball deep in his own half. Still regarded as one of the greatest tries the tournament has ever seen, Kirwan’s pace and agility were far too much for the Italians, most of whom weren’t able to lay a finger on him.
Australia humiliate Namibia – RWC 2003
Australia broke the record for the largest margin of victory in a World Cup by beating Namibia 142-0 in a game that emphasised the gulf in class between the top teams and those lower down the rankings. The Aussies opened the scoring after just two minutes, and didn’t really stop after that, racking up an unbelievable 22 tries during the course of the game.
Japan shocks the world - RWC 2015
Japan played South Africa in 2015 without having won a single world cup match in 24 years. Four minutes into overtime marked the moment of victory for Japan, with Karne Hesketh slamming the final try down to leave the game at 34 - 32. Safe to say this moment embarrassed the springboks forever. Have a look at the following video of the victorious moment.
Mandela hands Pienaar the trophy – RWC 1995
The truly remarkable tale of rugby uniting a racially divided country reached its pinnacle when South Africa beat New Zealand 15-12 in a closely fought final in 1995. Nelson Mandela in his Springboks jersey presenting the trophy to captain Francois Pienaar perfectly symbolised the ‘Rainbow Nation’ that the country had become.
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