The Greatest Moments in RWC History

The greatest moments in RWC history

Since the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, which saw New Zealand skipper David Kirk lift the William Webb Ellis Cup for the first time, there have been many great moments in RWC history. Everyone will have their own memories and favourites, but here are just a few that stand out a little bit more than the rest.

John Kirwan’s try vs Italy, 1987

In the first match of the inaugural RWC in 1987, young All Black flanker Michael Jones scored the first ever RWC try in what was to be a dominant display over a hapless Italian side. However, that day is better remembered for a solo try to John Kirwan, the All Blacks winger, that has gone down as one of the finest solo tries in RWC history. Taking the ball deep in his own half, Kirwan sidestepped and swerved his way around the Itallians and sped away for a magnificent score. Jones later scored the first try in the final against France, and both he and Kirwan went on to enjoy stellar international careers

Jonny Wilkinson’s drop-goal vs Australia, 2003

Surely, a moment no English rugby fan will ever forget. With the score tied in a nail-biting final and just moments to go in extra time, the England side were attacking down the left and got the ball back to Jonny Wilkinson, who calmly slotted the drop-goal with his weaker right foot to give his side victory and the William Webb Ellis Cup. In the aftermath of the game, former Australian Wing, David Campese, made good on a promise to walk down Oxford Street in London wearing a sandwich board bearing the words ‘I admit, the best team won!’, raising a great deal of money for Great Ormond Street Hospital in the process.

Jonah Lomu scores four tries vs England, 1995

Giant All Black wing announced his arrival on the rugby scene in some style in the 1995 RWC semi-final against England, when he scored four tries. The first was a spectre of things to come, as he powered his way through England’s defence as if it wasn’t there, famously crashing through Mike Catt on his way to the line. Lomu’s performance made him a superstar and prompted England skipper Will Carling to describe him as a ‘freak’. Incidentally, in the same game, All Blacks No 8 Zinzan Brooke scored an extraordinary drop-goal from some 50 metres out, just to rub salt into England’s wounds.

Takudzwa Ngwenya scores v South Africa 2007

Possibly the try of the 2007 tournament, the USA’s Ngwenya finished off a length of the field movement by out-pacing Bryan Habana, then reckoned to be the fastest man in rugby. The move began just metres from the USA line, when a loose south African pass was intercepted. The Americans broke free, and Ngwenya found himself at the end of a long pass with just Habana to beat. Offered the outside, he swept past a desperate Habana to score.

Serge Blanco vs Australia, 1987

France seldom have had both wonderful and disappointing moments at the RWC (beating New Zealand twice but losing twice to them in the final). However, in the semi-final against Australia in 1987, they scored a team try to remember. With minutes to go and the game tied at 24 points each, great interpassing saw them take play from their own 22 to the Australian line. The ball found fullback Blanco surging forward with the speed and strength to evade tiring Australian defenders and to go over in the corner, giving his side the lead for the first time in the game and eventual victory.

Nelson Mandela, 1995

South Africa’s victory over favourites New Zealand in the 1995 RWC World Cup final was momentous enough, but what followed has become one of the most iconic moments in sport. South African President, Nelson Mandela, presented the William Webb Ellis Cup to Springbok’s captain Francois Pienaar, wearing a replica of Pienaar’s No 6 Springbok jersey, so long an emblem of the previous despised white regime. His gesture helped to unite a divided nation and establish a new era of reconciliation in South Africa.

Pacific standoff, 2003

The All Blacks haka, performed by the side before every game, has become a rugby tradition. Most sides stand and face the New Zealanders down but at the 2003 RWC Tonga surprised the All Blacks by laying down their own challenge – the sipi tau. The Tongan response brought them very close to their opponents in a moment that showed the passion that rugby excites in the Pacific. Unfortunately for the Tongans, that passion was not enough to prevent the All Blacks running out 91-7 winners.

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