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Rugby World Cup: Classic finals

The Rugby World Cup will come to a stirring conclusion on Saturday evening as New Zealand face South Africa in Paris for the right to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

These two sides are the winners of the last four World Cups between them and both nations are going for a record fourth success in this tournament.

South Africa survived a mammoth scare to edge out England in the last four, while New Zealand powered past Argentina.

Ahead of their showdown at the Stade de France, here is our look back on the five best ever Rugby World Cup finals.

5. New Zealand 8-7 France - Auckland, 2011

New Zealand beat France in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final to win their first Webb Ellis Cup since 1987 and, in doing so, release the enormous pressure of trying to end that long title-wait in front of an expectant home crowd.

The All Blacks had been stunned four years earlier by Les Bleus in Cardiff and there was a feeling the French had a hold on their illustrious hosts. 

With Dan Carter injured and Richie McCaw struggling through the final, this was a war on the turf as heroic captain Thierry Dusautoir soldiered gamely for France, answering New Zealand's first-half try from Tony Woodcock with one of his own early in the second. 

In the end it was a second-half penalty by fourth-choice fly half Stephen Donald that proved decisive as the All Blacks won out in front of an adoring crowd at Eden Park.

4. New Zealand 34-17 Australia, London, 2015

The powerhouses from the southern hemisphere did battle at Twickenham and produced a World Cup final loaded with tries. Something of a rarity in modern times when this game has become an arm-wrestle more often than not.

A first ever RWC final between the All Blacks and the Wallabies was one to relish and so it proved, with five tries – only two fewer than in the previous six finals combined.

Tries from Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ma'a Nonu had the All Blacks in control but David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani responded as Australia turned the scoreboard from 21-3 to 21-17 and threatened an almighty turnaround. 

Carter, on his final appearance, put over a crucial drop goal from 40 metres to ease the tension and the fly-half then slotted over a huge penalty kick from the half-way line as the All Blacks became the first team to defend the Webb Ellis Cup successfully with Beauden Barrett touching down in the final minute to add some gloss on the scoreboard.

3. New Zealand 29-9 France, Auckland, 1987

The first ever World Cup decider and New Zealand were dominant at home. Flanker Michael Jones claimed their first try before half-time while scrum-half David Kirk was on hand for the second before peerless winger John Kirwan ran in a third as France succumbed.

France had arguably peaked in their epic semi-final against Australia a week earlier but they stuck with the challenge and were rewarded with a try by Pierre Berbizier. 

2. Australia 17-20 England 20 (aet), Sydney, 2003

Played in the pouring rain in Sydney, this gruelling decider saw England outlast the hosts and holders over 100 minutes on the back of Jonny Wilkinson's unforgettable drop goal.

Winger Lote Tuqiri got the Wallabies off to a perfect try-scoring start but Wilkinson's boot turned things around with three penalties. 

Jason Robinson scuttled over wide on the left after a powerful midfield burst from Lawrence Dallaglio just before half-time to put England 14-5 ahead but Elton Flatley matched the kicking feats in the second half to draw the hosts level right at the end.

Wilkinson and Flatley exchanged extra-time penalties and it looked as if sudden death was coming before Wilkinson found a pocket of space to slot the most memorable kick in England's history and secure the Cup for Clive Woodward's side.

1. South Africa 15-12 New Zealand (aet), Johannesburg, 1995

Perhaps rugby's greatest day. It was a final that didn't produce any tries but it was a gripping contest as the Springboks sought to quench a nation's desire.

Jonah Lomu was the star of the tournament and looked unstoppable but South Africa managed to tame the giant by cutting off his supply lines.

New Zealand's Andrew Mehrtens and the hosts' Joel Stransky traded blows with the boot – two penalties apiece and a drop goal forcing extra-time, before one more drop each in the additional period. 

Then came the historic decisive drop goal from Stransky as the host nation won out 15-12, sparking the most iconic trophy lift in all of sport as Nelson Mandela, in the same green No. 6 shirt as Springboks skipper Francois Pienaar, handed over the Webb Ellis Cup in a liberating moment for South Africans.

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