As the eighth Rugby World Cup gets underway, what better opportunity to look back at some of the greatest moments from the tournament?
From last minute dramas to actions that unite nations, the sporting tournament has grown rapidly since its introduction to the world stage in 1987.
The competition has enabled some of the games most talented players to showcase their skills on the biggest stage of all, while there have plenty of upsets, amazing individual play and incredible tries.
As Twickenham, and many other stadiums across England and Wales prepare for the 2015 tournament, we turned back the pages of the history books to discover some of the Rugby World Cup’s finest moments…
The Rainbow Nation
The racially divided nation of South Africa was united by rugby in 1995, and the memorable image was that of Nelson Mandela donning his Springboks jersey to present captain Francois Pienaar with the trophy at Ellis Park. South Africa had clinched a closely fought final 15-12, and the iconic picture of the two together came to symbolise the ‘Rainbow Nation’ that the country had become.
The events surrounding the final became the subject of a book and a film, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman.
France fight back
France met tournament favourites New Zealand in the semi-finals of the 1999 tournament, but no one predicted what would happen. With Johah Lomu leading an inspired All-Blacks side, all seemed to be going to script as they opened up a 24-10 lead.
But that was as good as it got for the Kiwis as France scored 33 points without reply before Jeff Wilson managed a consolation for New Zealand. The performance stunned the world and is considered to be one of the greatest upsets in Rugby World Cup history. The tournament didn’t end well for France though, as they succumbed 35-12 to Australia in the final in front of 72,000 people Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Jonny Wilkinson became the hero of a nation in 2003, after his fantastic kicking clinched the Rugby World Cup for England in Australia. With 20 seconds of extra time remaining, and the score tied at 17-17 against the hosts, England’s fly-half found space in front of the posts and sent the entire country into delirium.
A moment that English rugby fans will never forget, as the country secured its first Rugby World Cup crown. So good, you can watch it again below:
The Wallabies run riot
In the same tournament, Australia broke the record for largest margin of victory, running in an incredible 22 tries as they demolished minnows Namibia 142-0. It emphasised the gulf in class between those at the highest level of the game, as it took the Aussies just two minutes to register their first points. They didn’t really slow up after that either!
Western Samoa shock Wales
The rugby world was stunned at the Rugby World Cup in 1991 when huge underdogs Western Samoa overcame Wales in the group stages. The minnows won a close contest 16-13 but what made the result even more incredible was that the Welsh were playing at home!
Which of these was your favourite, or maybe you think another moment should take the crown?
Either way, we end with three words: Arise Sir Jonny!