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Five of the best moments in Rugby World Cup history

The Rugby World Cup is currently underway in France and new chapters are set to be added to the record books. Reigning champions South Africa are hoping to become just the second team after New Zealand to defend the Webb Ellis Cup, but hosts France and World No.1-ranked Ireland are out to land their first World Cup wins and bring the famed trophy to the northern hemisphere for just the second time after England’s success in 2003.

If one of those two sides were to break the Springboks’, New Zealand’s and Australia’s stranglehold on the Webb Ellis Cup, it would be a monumental moment for the sport and would go down as one of the greatest instances in the tournament’s albeit relatively short history. However, there is very little to separate them in the rugby odds this weekend, so let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Instead, let’s take a look back at what has already been written and zone in on five of the most memorable occurrences at the Rugby World Cup.

1987: Inaugural tournament

Despite records of international rugby dating back over 100 years prior to the inaugural Rugby World Cup, with England taking on Scotland in 1871, the first renewal of the tournament wasn’t until 1987. It was co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia, and the All Blacks were crowned the winners after a 29-9 victory over France in Auckland while the Wallabies lost the third-place game to Wales. Overall, it was a fantastic advertisement for rugby on the global stage.

1995: South Africa’s victory

South Africa were forbidden from participating in the first two renewals of the Rugby World Cup due to their worldwide ban in sporting events thanks to the apartheid regime in the country. But they made their debut in emphatic fashion in 1995. With the tournament being held on home soil, the Springboks went on to beat New Zealand in the final in Johannesburg. Nelson Mandela handing out the trophy was a poignant moment for the entire nation.

2003: Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal

A moment England fans have held on to dearly for the last two decades, Jonny Wilkinson’s heart-stopping drop goal is up there with the best moments in Rugby World Cup history. The Wallabies were the defending champions and had home-field advantage at Stadium Australia as they set out to become the first team to retain the Webb Ellis Cup. But with the scores tied at 17-17, the game headed to extra-time and Wilkinson scored a drop goal on his weaker right foot with just 30 seconds left to secure England’s fate.

2011-15: New Zealand back-to-back winners

Only one team had made it to successive World Cup finals to this point. That, of course, was Australia — and we already know how that ended. New Zealand are always looking for ways to better their rivals though, and they did that in 2011 and 2015. The All Blacks matched the Wallabies’ record of two World Cup titles with a second win in Auckland, and they became the first team to both defend the Webb Ellis Cup and win it for a third time when beating Australia at Twickenham four years later.

2019: South Africa’s hat-trick

The All Blacks were tipped to go on and win the Rugby World Cup for a third-straight time in Japan four years ago. Instead, New Zealand had their record matched by South Africa. England beat the defending champions 19-7 in the semi-final, while the Springboks edged out Wales to set up a repeat of the 2007 showpiece. History repeated itself as South Africa beat England once again, this time by a more comfortable 32 points to 12.