Rugby World Cup: Five great moments from the tournament's history

England's Jonny Wilkinson
Jonny Wilkinson pictured back in 2003
Join today

the Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan next week so Max Liu has selected five moments from the tournament's rich history to whet your appetite...

"England are [6.0] to win this time and [3.45] to reach the final."

South Africa stop Lomu to win the World Cup

In 1995, the Rugby World Cup was held in South Africa a little over a year after the official end of apartheid. The Springboks, as they are known by their fans, were excluded from the previous two World Cups due to apartheid. England's World Cup hopes that year were destroyed in the last four by giant New Zealand winger Jonah Lomu but, in the final, the Boks' defence found a way to stop Lomu, with two players tackling him at once on several occasions, before Joel Stransky's extra-time drop goal sealed a heroic 15-12 win for the hosts. The image of captain Francois Pienaar receiving the Web Ellis Trophy from Nelson Mandela on the pitch afterwards is one of the most iconic in sporting history. The Spring Boks are in decent form coming into this years' tournament, winning the Four Nations this summer, and are joint second favourites at [6.0].

Jonny Wilkinson kicks England to victory Down Under

England had lost the RWC final of 1991 at Twickenham, fallen short by a long way in '95 and '99, and went to Australia in 2003 knowing it was now or never for them under Clive Woodward's management. They sailed through the Group stage before meeting Wales in the quarter-finals - a match settled by Jonny Wilkinson's kicking and a fine try from Will Greenwood. They then battled past France in a rain-soaked semi-final before facing the Aussies in the final. With the scores at 17-17, and with 26 seconds of extra-time remaining, Wilkinson scored the decisive drop goal that meant England became the first northern hemisphere team to win the tournament. They're [6.0] to win this time and [3.45] to reach the final.

New Zealand throw off underachievers tag in 2011

By the time New Zealand hosted the RWC in 2011 a quarter-of-a-century had passed since they won the inaugural tournament and they had a deserved reputation as big stage bottlers. On home soil they were determined to put that right for many reasons, not least because in February 2011 an earthquake had hit the Canterbury region of the country killing 185 people. On the field, the All Blacks were imperious, swatting aside all comers and giving one of the great RWC performances when they trounced Australia in the semi-final. In the final, they nearly blew it against an unimpressive French team, only for substitute Stephen Donald to be the unlikely hero by scoring the decisive penalty in an 8-7 victory. Four years later, New Zealand became the first team to retain the RWC and they're [2.44] favourites to complete a hat-trick in Japan this autumn.

Wales stun Twickenham in 2015

Sorry England fans, but Wales' victory over England in the Group stage in 2015 was one of the great team comebacks and a tactical masterclass from Warren Gatland. England led 22-12 with 30 minutes to play but a series of penalties kept Wales in contention before Gareth Davies's late try from Lloyd Williams' cross-field kick gave the Dragon a sensational 28-25 win. At the end, Gatland came out of his technical booth and danced down the Twickenham steps to celebrate with his players. The World Cup in Japan will be his last and you can back Wales at [14.0] to send him off in the most emphatic style.

Japan beat South Africa in 2015

We couldn't end without mentioning this year's hosts, especially as this one should give hope to them and to England. It was 24 years since Japan had won a World Cup match when they played two-time champions South Africa four years ago. But Japan, coached by Eddie Jones, were undaunted and took the game to their opponents from the off. Full-back Ayumu Goromaru was impeccable in his kicking, contributing 24 points, and scored a try. It was Karne Hesketh, though, crossed the white wash in the last minute to make it 34-32 to Jones' men and pull off the biggest upset in the tournament's history. This time, Japan open their campaign against Russia.

Max Liu,

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles