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Top 10 Rugby World Cup Moments

18 September 2015

top 10 rugby moments

The 2015 Rugby World Cup (RWC), the third to be hosted in Britain, kicks off on 18 September. Since the inaugural RWC in New Zealand in 1987, the tournament has become the third largest sporting event worldwide, only behind the football World Cup and Olympics, with an anticipated TV audience of 4 billion for the 2015 tournament.
RL360 looks back over the previous 7 RWC tournaments and picks out the 10 most memorable moments.


1) Mandela unites a nation, 1995: Nelson Mandela saw the 1995 RWC as a way of uniting his still racially-divided people as South Africa came to terms with it's post-apartheid future. Mandela wore the Springbok green jersey to the final - at that time a potent symbol of white South Africa - and danced with delight as South Africa edged out the All Blacks to win a tight final. It was a significant landmark for the "rainbow nation", and was turned into a Hollywood film with Clint Eastwood's movie "Invictus".


2) Jonah Lomu smashes England, 1995: Man-mountain Jonah Lomu became the game's first global superstar with a - literally - unstoppable performance against England in the 1995 semi final. At 6ft 5in and 19 stone and described as "a freak" by England captain Will Carling, Lomu simply ran through the England defence, memorably trampling over English centre Mike Catt on the way to his first try. Though injury blighted his career, Lomu is still the RWC leading try scorer with 15 scores.

3) Wilkinson's last minute drop goal breaks Aussie hearts, 2003: England were locked at 17 all in the 2003 RWC final in Sydney against hosts Australia with just 20 seconds of extra time remaining. Scrum half Matt Dawson fired a pass to the ice cool Johnny Wilkinson who calmly slotted over a winning drop goal, with his weaker right foot! Wilkinson, the all time RWC record points scorer, became an instant legend and England remain the only northern hemisphere team to have won the RWC.

4) French brilliance inspires greatest come-back, 1999: Everything was going to script as tournament favourites the All Blacks built up a 24-10 lead against France at Twickenham in the 1999 RWC semi-final. In the greatest turnaround in RWC history, the French went on an inspired scoring spree with 3 tries and 33 unanswered points to blow the stunned All Blacks away. Les Bleus made another - though less dramatic - comeback against the All Blacks in the 2007 RWC quarter-final.

5) Western Samoa stun Wales at the Arms Park, 1991: Wales, and the rest of the world of rugby, were stunned when huge underdogs Western Samoa pulled off a shock victory over the Welsh in their own back yard at the group stages of the 1991 tournament. As one Welsh observer drily commented: "Thank God we didn't play the whole of Samoa". The Samoans proved it was no fluke 8 years later when they defeated the Welsh again.

6) Lynagh break Irish hearts with last minute try, 1991: No one gave Ireland a chance as they lined up in Dublin against tournament favourites Australia in the RWC quarter final. With 5 minutes to go in a tight match, Irish flanker Gordon Hamilton galloped over the line from 40 metres to put Ireland ahead, and the "green and golds" on the verge of elimination. With virtually the last play of the game, the Australians spurned a penalty chance that would have levelled the match, instead opting to run the ball. The decision paid off when fly-half Michael Lynagh dived over for the match winning score.

7) Kirwin scores greatest RWC try, 1987: In the first match in the very first RWC, John Kirwin scored a stunning solo try for tournament hosts New Zealand against Italy. Receiving the ball in his own 22, right winger Kirwin evaded 7 tackles before diving over the line at the end of a mesmerising 80 metre run. The try, which helped propel the All Blacks to the inaugural RWC victory, helped to establish the tournament around the world.

8) Argentina join rugby's top table, 2007: Rugby has often struggled to extend its appeal beyond its traditional heartlands of western Europe, Australasia and South Africa. So it was with some relief that 2007 saw the emergence of a new powerhouse in the game. Argentina's elevation to the top tier of rugby playing nations was confirmed, when the Pumas defeated hosts France twice, Scotland and Ireland on the way to a third place finish.

9) Hastings misses sitter to let in the 'Auld Enemy, 1991: A tight semi final between rugby's oldest of enemies was locked at 6-6 in Edinburgh in front of a partisan Scottish crowd. With the match in the final quarter, Scotland won a penalty right in front of the posts. Experienced Scottish full back Gavin Hastings took the kick but inexplicably sent the ball wide of the posts. England's Rob Andrew struck a late drop-goal to earn England a narrow 9-6 victory.

10) Warburton sees Red as brave Wales bow out to France, 2011: Wales were the surprise package of the 2011 tournament held in New Zealand, and appeared to have momentum with them when they lined up for their semi-final against a lack lustre France. 18 minutes into the game, with Wales leading 3-0, Irish referee Alain Rolland controversially awarded Warburton a straight red card for a spear tackle. The decision, viewed by many as extremely harsh, changed the balance of the game and a brave Wales lost by one point 9-8.