In the illustrious history of the Rugby World Cup, moments of sheer brilliance, heart-stopping drama, and indomitable spirit have defined the tournament. From the inaugural competition in 1987 to the most recent clashes, the World Cup has witnessed unforgettable matches that have left an indelible mark on the sport. In this article, we take you on a thrilling journey through the 10 best Rugby World Cup matches of all time, each a testament to the enduring spirit of rugby and its ability to unite nations.
1. New Zealand vs. France – 1987 Final: The Inaugural Classic
The first-ever Rugby World Cup final in 1987 saw New Zealand face off against France. The match remains etched in history, with the All Blacks prevailing 29-9. John Kirwan’s remarkable try set the tone for this historic encounter, as New Zealand claimed their maiden title.
2. South Africa vs. New Zealand – 1995 Final: The Rainbow Nation’s Triumph
The 1995 final is more than a rugby match; it’s a symbol of hope and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa. Nelson Mandela’s iconic presence, wearing the Springbok jersey, inspired the nation. The Springboks, led by Francois Pienaar, won an emotionally charged final against the All Blacks in extra time, with Joel Stransky’s drop goal sealing their victory.
3. Australia vs. England – 2003 Final: Wilkinson’s Golden Kick
The 2003 final between Australia and England went into extra time, with Jonny Wilkinson’s last-minute drop goal securing England’s first-ever World Cup title, a moment of rugby history that still reverberates through the ages.
4. France vs. New Zealand – 1999 Semi-Final: The ‘Hand of God’
In a dramatic 1999 semifinal, France, inspired by captain Fabien Galthié, overcame the mighty All Blacks. The match is famously remembered for “The Hand of God,” as French captain Raphael Ibanez knocked the ball from the hands of All Blacks’ Frank Bunce, denying a try.
5. South Africa vs. England – 2019 Final: Kolisi’s Leadership
Siya Kolisi, the first black captain of the Springboks, led his team to victory against England in the 2019 final. This match showcased South Africa’s resolute defense and powerful forward play, securing a 32-12 win and their third World Cup title.
6. France vs. Australia – 1987 Semi-Final: The Semi-Final Thriller
The 1987 semifinal between France and Australia was an exhilarating display of attacking rugby. France’s Serge Blanco scored a last-minute try to secure a 30-24 victory, cementing their reputation for flair and unpredictability.
7. Ireland vs. New Zealand – 2013 Group Match: The Near-Upset
In a pulsating 2013 group-stage match, Ireland came within minutes of defeating the All Blacks for the first time in history. New Zealand’s Ryan Crotty scored a try in injury time, and Aaron Cruden’s conversion sealed a dramatic 24-22 victory.
8. Wales vs. England – 2015 Group Match: The Pool of Death
A 2015 group-stage match between Wales and England was aptly called the “Pool of Death.” This nail-biting encounter saw Wales snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, winning 28-25 and inflicting a critical blow to England’s World Cup campaign.
9. South Africa vs. Japan – 2015 Group Match: The Miracle of Brighton
In one of the biggest upsets in rugby history, Japan’s Brave Blossoms shocked the world by defeating the Springboks 34-32 in the 2015 group stage. Ayumu Goromaru’s flawless kicking and Karne Hesketh’s last-minute try made this match an unforgettable moment in World Cup lore.
10. France vs. Argentina – 2007 Semi-Final: Pumas’ Heroic Journey
In 2007, Argentina embarked on an inspiring journey to the semifinals. In their clash with France, they exhibited a stunning display of power and skill, securing a 34-10 victory and announcing themselves as a rugby force to be reckoned with.
These 10 matches embody the essence of the Rugby World Cup, where the pursuit of glory, the spirit of competition, and the love of the game converge to create moments that will forever resonate in the hearts of rugby fans around the world.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Best Rugby World Cup Matches
- What are the best Rugby World Cup matches of all time?
The best Rugby World Cup matches are those that have left an indelible mark on the sport due to their thrilling and historic nature. Some of these include the 1987 final between New Zealand and France, the 1995 final between South Africa and New Zealand, and the 2003 final between Australia and England.
- What makes a Rugby World Cup match one of the best?
A match is considered one of the best in Rugby World Cup history when it features extraordinary drama, exceptional skill, iconic moments, and often a historical or emotional context that transcends the sport itself.
- Why is the 1995 final between South Africa and New Zealand significant?
The 1995 final holds immense significance as it marked South Africa’s return to international rugby post-apartheid. Nelson Mandela’s presence and the Springboks’ victory symbolized unity and reconciliation in the country.
- Which match is famous for Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal?
Jonny Wilkinson’s famous drop goal came in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final between Australia and England. It secured England’s first-ever World Cup title in a dramatic fashion.
- Why is the 1987 semi-final between France and Australia remembered?
The 1987 semi-final between France and Australia is remembered for its exhilarating display of attacking rugby and France’s Serge Blanco’s last-minute try, securing a dramatic victory.
- What is the “Hand of God” incident in rugby?
The “Hand of God” incident occurred in the 1999 Rugby World Cup semi-final when French captain Raphael Ibanez knocked the ball from the hands of New Zealand’s Frank Bunce, denying a try. It’s a famous moment in World Cup history.
- Why is the 2015 match between Japan and South Africa known as the “Miracle of Brighton”?
The 2015 match between Japan and South Africa is called the “Miracle of Brighton” because Japan, considered a rugby underdog, pulled off a historic upset by defeating the powerful Springboks 34-32.
- Which match is often referred to as the “Pool of Death”?
The 2015 Rugby World Cup match between Wales and England is known as the “Pool of Death” because it featured two strong teams in the same group, resulting in high-stakes drama.
- Why is the 2007 semi-final between France and Argentina notable?
The 2007 semi-final between France and Argentina is notable because it showcased Argentina’s rise in world rugby as they defeated the host nation, France, 34-10, on their way to the semi-finals.