Today marks a year until the opening game of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, when England will take on Fiji at Twickenham. To mark the occasion, RW has dug out some memorable moments from the previous seven tournaments, by Joshua Murray.
1987 – The inaugural Rugby World Cup had provided its fair share of one-sided matches by the time France and Australia met for their semi-final. With the scores locked at 24-24 after a flair-filled encounter, the scene was set for French full-back Serge Blanco to deliver the decisive blow in the final moments. Following a build-up of French pressure, Blanco received the ball 20 metres out on the left wing. Producing an electric burst of pace, Biarritz’s finest outpaced four scrambling Wallaby defenders to dive baletically in at the corner and secure a last-gasp billet to the final for Les Bleus. Sacre bleu, incroyable!
1991 – Ireland took on a much-fancied Australia in their quarter-final at Lansdowne Road in 1991, in front of a vociferous Irish crowd. The ground erupted in ecstasy when flanker Gordon Hamilton finished a breakaway move to give Ireland an 18-15 lead with minutes remaining, but this time it was the Wallabies’ turn to have the final say. A wrap-around move to the right ended with Australia fly-half Michael Lynagh gathering the ball two metres out to burrow over the line just before the Irish defence could barge him into touch.
1995 – Whilst the 1995 RWC in South Africa will forever be remembered for the incredible influence it had off the field for the host nation, there were also some pretty unforgettable moments on it. Of those, perhaps the most stunning was the emergence of a New Zealand winger by the name of Jonah Lomu, in his country’s semi-final with England. The All Black, who Will Carling described as a ‘freak’ after the game, scored four tries on the day, but it was the first effort – including his brutal trampling of Mike Catt – that will live longest in the memory.
1999 – England’s heavy defeat to New Zealand in the 1995 semi-final provoked questions about their ability to compete with the southern hemisphere giants, and the issue reared its head again after their quarter-final exit in 1999. The 44-21 defeat to reigning champions South Africa was most notable for the virtuoso performance of Springbok fly-half Jannie de Beer, who scored a world record five drop goals during the match to send Clive Woodward’s men crashing out.
2003 – The sight of Jonny Wilkinson sending a right-footed drop-goal through the posts at the Telstra Stadium on 22 November 2003 has been stencilled into the memories of every England rugby fan. A slightly less beautiful, but no less memorable, moment arrived earlier in the tournament, when Samoa‘s Brian Lima fully justified his nickname ‘The Chiropractor’ by delivering a bone-crunching tackle that will have left an imprint on South African fly-half Derick Hougaard’s rib cage after he’d taken a flighted pass. Thanks Joost…
2007 – New Zealand’s famous haka can be one of sport’s most intimidating sights. In their home World Cup, France sought to respond to this intimidation with a memorable response of their own. The French team edged towards New Zealand, with Sebastien Chabal at the forefront, mid-war dance, before staring down their opponents down from point-blank range. Their bold strategy was a success: France went on to win the quarter-final 20-18 in a game which led to years of recriminations.
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2011 – With Wales appearing in their first World Cup semi-final since 1987, expectation was building that something truly special may be on the cards. Within 18 minutes of their semi against France, that expectation seemed to disappear. Sam Warburton’s tip-tackle on French wing Vincent Clerc was deemed illegal by referee Alain Rolland, who brandished a red card to end the Welsh captain’s participation in the game. Wales fought valiantly with 14-men for over an hour, but were narrowly beaten 9-8. A disconsolate Warburton flew home days later, seated next to, (you’ve guessed it), Vincent Clerc!
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