What makes a game impressive? Some would say an intense finish and others say a standout specific performance, while some prefer to see the loser come through and upset the favourite. The World Cup has produced games containing all of these, making for some truly notable encounters that will go down in history. With the RWC 2023 a few months away, what better time to look back on the historical competitions and remember some classic games?
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RWC 1995: New Zealand Vs Japan
We kick off this list with one of the two record one-sided affairs in the Rugby World Cup past. Rampant New Zealand took on the Japanese in a discrepancy if there was ever one. New Zealand ran in 20 tries to mark up 145 points to Japan’s 17. Simon Culhane transformed every single one of these, scoring 40 points from alterations plus five for his one try.
His total of 45 points in a single game remains a World Cup record. Marc Ellis excellently ran in six tries but was later appraised by coach Laurie Mains for not looking to set up his wingers more. Perhaps not the neighbouring or most exciting game, but unforgettable nonetheless.
Rugby World Cup 1987: New Zealand vs France
Much has been made of New Zealand choking at RWCs. So much, so that it is often overlooked that they have indeed won a World Cup. New Zealand breezed into the 1987 final on the back of some dominant performances and was heavily favoured to beat France in the final. After an average first half which saw them lead 9-3 at the break, New Zealand came out and blew the French out of the park in the second half.
By scoring 20 points in a strong display. The French counted a try in the dying minutes, but New Zealand was never in danger of losing this game, running out winners 29-9. It was one time when New Zealand didn’t fail to deliver the goods, and it remains equally a good and bad remembrance for New Zealand admirers as the one time their team won the Rugby World Cup.
1991 RWC Samoa vs Wales
At the time it was dubbed the greatest game in Samoan rugby history. Indeed, many still claim this. The island men were given little casual of falling one of rugby’s giants in their pool game at the 1991 Rugby World Cup. Samoa wasn’t even current at the previous World Cup. But Samoa had rather say about that. It was here that the world first saw the Samoans’ bodily defence, mixed with their flair out wide.
Halfback Matthew Vaega was important, scoring a try and kicking three goals, while the game also marked the emergence of the now-legendary Brian Lima. Future All-Black legend Frank Bunce made his test introduction and was powerful, while future Samoa captain Pat Lam also made his debut here. But it was as a side that they were able to topple the Welsh in the most improbable of wins. Twenty years later, 16-13 is still a score all Samoans are delighted of.
1991 Australia vs Ireland RWC game
Ireland arrived at this game as huge losers against a star-studded Wallaby outfit but came oh so close to pulling off the most unlikely of triumphs. Late in the second half, the Irish struggled by three points, before Irish flanker Gordon Hamilton broke away and counted a long-range try in the corner to give Ireland an 18-15 lead. The try is still regarded as one of Ireland’s best.
But it wasn’t to be, as Australia functioned their way downfield. After a David Campese run, Michael Lynagh moved down to score the winning try. Ireland was left heartbroken, but the game will forever go down as the biggest almost upset in the Rugby World Cup past. For more about knowing Rugby World Cup Tickets.
2007 Rugby World Cup France vs New Zealand
The 2007 New Zealand were owed as the toughest team ever sent to an RWC. They entered the competition as red-hot darlings and it was hard to see who was going to stop them. Sure enough, they plagued up some easy wins in pool play and entered their quarterfinal against France full of sureness. No one gave the French a gamble. What followed has become the major talking point of the rugby world over the past four years.
After a solid first half, the All Blacks led 10-3 and looked as though they would safely progress to the Rugby World Cup Semi-final. But a yellow card to Luke McAlister saw the drive turn and the game became an even competition. Frederic Michalak entered the game as an impressive player, and what an influence he made. He would make a break that led to France’s second try of the game, which saw the French take the lead and run out winners, 20-18.
1987 RWC game between France and Australia
This time it was Australia who felt the anger of the French flair, as the pre-tournament picks were knocked out in what was the game of the competition. It was a close game all over, but with time almost up and the score at 24-all, it was going to take a special strength to clinch the game. France conquered territory in the dying minutes, but couldn’t pause the Wallaby defence and it seemed the game was heading for extra time.
With their last roll of the dice, the France Rugby World Cup team gave the ball to their star fullback, Serge Blanco, who made a run for the corner and was able to touch down to give France a 30-24 win, booking a room in the Rugby World Cup Final against New Zealand.
RWC 1995 New Zealand vs England
New Zealand entered their semi-final against England guessing a tough game. Brian Lochore can be mentioned as saying, they didn’t have a faintness anywhere in the park. No one told Jonah Lomu that. It was this game that saw Lomu fully pale his claim as rugby’s first global celebrity. His harmfulness was key in the New Zealand Rugby World Cup 45-29 win.
Scoring a mind-boggling four tries in what finished up being the most fabulous individual RWC performance of all time. He was simply unstoppable that day. England mounted a comeback, but the game was already well and truly won for New Zealand.
Rugby World Cup 2003 England vs Australia
The final saw them come up against the host nation, Australia, which had upset New Zealand in the semi-final. The game was a tight one, with nothing unravelling the teams at full time, the score being protected at 17-all. This saw the game go to extra time when Wilkinson kicked one of the most outstanding dropped goals in rugby past to give England their first and only Rugby World Cup Final win.
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