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Rugby World Cup: England's record through the years

England will be hoping to mount a challenge to win the Rugby World Cup for the second time in their history next month, having been crowned champions back in 2003.

It will be England's 10th appearance at the World Cup - they are ever-presents - and they remain among the traditional heavyweights of international rugby union, along with the likes of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and tournament hosts France.

The Red Rose's best-ever performance at the global showpiece came in the unforgettable autumn of 2003 when they were crowned champions in Sydney.

They have lost in a further three finals, with their four appearances in the showpiece finale a record number they share with the All Blacks and the Wallabies.

And even though the build-up to this year's event has not been straightforward, Steve Borthwick's side will still have high hopes of competing with the very best again when the action gets underway on Friday 8th September.

WhatRugby Union World Cup
WhenFriday 8th September - Saturday 28th October 2023
How to watchITV
OddsNew Zealand 11/4, France 3/1, South Africa 4/1, Ireland 9/2, Australia 10/1, England 11/1

England take on Argentina, Japan, Chile and Samoa in the pool stage this year, before they hope to advance to the quarter-finals and beyond in the knockout stages.

Here we look back on England's World Cup record down the years and highlight some memorable moments when the Red Rose famously blossomed - and also wilted - on the biggest stage.

YearStage reached
2015Pool stage

Runners-up as Aussies taste Twickenham glory

After reaching the quarter-finals in the inaugural 1987 World Cup, hopes were high there would be improvement at the next competition in 1991 - an event the Red Rose jointly hosted along with Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France.

They again finished pool runners-up after going down to a narrow 18-12 defeat to the All Blacks in their Pool A opener, recovering well to beat Italy and USA on home turf at Twickenham.

Geoff Cooke's side saw off France in the quarter-finals and then neighbours Scotland in the semis, but there was final disappointment when the Wallabies won 12-6 at Twickenham to be crowned world champions for the first time.

Last-eight disappointment in Paris

Again, heading into the 1999 tournament England were expected to do well, but they could only manage a run to the quarter-finals.

In a repeat of the 1991 pool stage, they finished second behind the fearsome Kiwis before going on to beat Fiji 45-24 in the quarter-final play-off round.

They were then defeated 44-21 by South Africa in the last eight in Paris as they failed to live with Springbok fly-half Jannie de Beer.

He kicked 34 points, including what was then a world-record five drop goals, as the reigning champions flexed their muscles in devastating fashion.

Wilkinson and Co go down in folklore

Four years later, however, it was to be England's finest hour.

The 2003 tournament in Australia is etched onto the memory of every rugby fan in the country as England became world champions for the first time.

The fact they did it by beating the hosts in the final in Sydney thanks to a brilliantly-crafted drop-goal by man-of-the-moment Jonny Wilkinson made it even sweeter, as England's class of 2003 wrote their names into the history books.

Clive Woodward's side had beaten South Africa before topping their pool - sending out an early warning to their rivals - and they went from strength to strength as they overcame Wales 28-17 in the last eight and then France 24-7 in the semis to set up the mouth-watering final showdown with the Wallabies.

The final - and specifically Wilkinson's dramatic match-winning drop-goal - is not just one of rugby's greatest-ever moments, but one of sport's historic 'where-were-you-when?' occasions, as the fly-half expertly guided home the crucial kick with 20 seconds left on the clock in extra-time.

Brilliant highs before final low in Japan

Fast-forward, finally, to 2019, and England, sensing a second world title, agonisingly fell short at the final hurdle when they lost to the Springboks in Japan.

After topping the pool, Eddie Jones' side beat Australia 40-16 in a brilliant quarter-final display, with that victory raising expectation levels considerably at the time.

Things went up a notch, however, in the last four as England famously got the better of the All Blacks in a stunning 19-7 success in Yokohama.

New Zealand had not lost a World Cup game in 12 years and had won 15 of the past 16 meetings between the two nations, but England demonstrated their intent inside three minutes when Manu Tuilagi crossed.

With Owen Farrell's conversion and four penalties from George Ford to add to the scoreboard, the underdogs memorably triumphed.

It was suggested those victories took too much out of Jones’ men as they then had to somehow rouse themselves for what was seen as the toughest of finals against South Africa.

That analysis proved to be spot on as the Springboks won the final - in the end fairly comfortably - 32-12, having also denied England in the 2007 final in Paris.

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