Rugby World Cup - a history lesson

A rundown of the tournament's finest moments


Hosts: Australia and New Zealand
Winners: New Zealand
The inaugural edition featured 16 teams, with the host nations Australia and New Zealand performing strongly. The Wallabies met their match in the semi-finals, losing out 30-24 to France, while the All Blacks crushed Wales 46-6. In the third-place play-off, Wales edged Australia 22-21. New Zealand proved too strong for France in the final, running out 29-9 winners.


Hosts: England, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
Winners: Australia
One of the early shocks of the tournament was Canada's progression to the knockout stages. The Canucks finished second in Pool D behind France, recording wins over Fiji and Romania. England scraped past Scotland 9-6 in the first semi-final, while Australia defeated rivals New Zealand 16-6 in the other last-four clash. New Zealand took third place with a 13-6 win over Scotland, before Australia won their first title with a 12-6 win against England.


Hosts: South Africa
Winners: South Africa

The third edition produced one of sport’s most memorable moments when South African president Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springboks shirt and cap, presented the trophy to winning captain Francois Pienaar. South Africa seemed destined to win throughout, seeing off Western Samoa 42-14 and France 19-15 in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, before defeating New Zealand 15-12 in the final after extra time.


Hosts: England, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
Winners: Australia
The Wallabies became the first team to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the second time, winning every game at the tournament. They defeated Wales 24-9 in the quarters, reigning champions South Africa 27-21 in the semis and France 35-12 in the final. South Africa saw off pre-tournament favourites New Zealand 22-18 in the third-place play-off.


Hosts: Australia
Winners: England

In the tournament’s most dramatic final, Johnny Wilkinson scored a drop-kick with 20 seconds remaining in extra time against Australia to clinch England’s first title with a 20-17 win. England looked strong throughout the tournament, emerging top of Pool C ahead of South Africa. In the quarters, they beat Wales 28-17 and in the semis, they cruised past France 24-7. New Zealand took third place, beating France 40-13.

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Hosts: France, Scotland and Wales
Winners: South Africa
South Africa added title number two with a hard-fought 15-6 win over reigning champions England in the final. The two also met in Pool A, where South Africa emerged as group winners. Argentina provided one of the stories of the tournament, ultimately finishing third with a 34-10 victory over France.


Hosts: New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand joined Australia and South Africa as two-time winners of the Webb Ellis Cup, defeating France 8-7 in a nervy final. It was France’s third defeat in the final of the competition. Argentina once again reached the knockout stage, where they were defeated 33-10 by New Zealand. The All Blacks saw off Australia 20-6 in the semi-finals, but the Wallabies bounced back to take third place with a 21-18 win against Wales.

Rugby Wold Cup in numbers

The most successful team, top try-scorer, biggest win and more vital stats
Team stats
Biggest win
Australia 142 Namibia 0

Highest team score
New Zealand 145 Japan 17

Most tries in a match
(Australia 142 Namibia 0, 2003)

Individual stats
Most points overall
Jonny Wilkinson (England): 277

Most points in a tournament
Grant Fox (New Zealand): 126

Most points in a match
Simon Culhane (New Zealand): 45
(New Zealand 145 Japan 17, 1995)

Most tries
Jonah Lomu (New Zealand): 15

Most tries in a tournament
Jonah Lomu (New Zealand): 8

Bryan Habana (South Africa): 8

Most tries in a match
Marc Ellis (New Zealand): 6
(New Zealand 145 Japan 17, 1995)

Most appearances
Jason Leonard (England): 22

Oldest player
Brad Thorn (New Zealand): 36 years, 262 days
(New Zealand 8 France 7, final 2011)

Youngest player
Thretton Palama (USA): 19 years, eight days
(USA 15 South Africa 64, 2007)

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