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Rugby World Cup: Top 10 moments

There’s no shortage of memorable moments from the nine previous editions of the Rugby World Cup, and the 2023 volume promises to deliver plenty more unforgettable scenes.

And before the 10th edition kicks-off in September, there’s time to take a trip down memory lane to examine the most famous moments in the competition's illustrious history in detail.

What2023 Rugby World Cup
WhereVarious stadiums across France
WhenFriday, 8th September - Saturday, 28th October
How to watchITV
OddsFrance 11/4, New Zealand 11/4, Ireland 9/2, South Africa 9/2, Australia 17/2, England 10/1

10. Kirwan try for All Blacks lights up first World Cup

The Rugby World Cup story started back in 1987, with the inaugural tournament one in which New Zealand flyer John Kirwan would emerge as a star.

The Kiwis made a flying start to the tournament at Eden Park in Auckland in a game against Italy that would live long in the memory due to a solo try for the ages from Kirwan.

Rugby World Cup moments: Kirwan try for All Blacks lights up first World Cup

9. Australia demolish Namibia

If you want to make a statement as the host nation at the World Cup, then winning a match by a record margin is a good way to go about it.

That's exactly what Australia did as they romped past Namibia 142-0 in Pool A, their third of four victories as they topped the group.

Rugby World Cup moments: Australia demolish Namibia

8. Western Samoa stun Wales

Wales looked to be in the doldrums heading into the second Rugby World Cup in 1991, but even so, few would have expected them to come unstuck against Western Samoa.

On a damp autumnal Sunday afternoon in Cardiff, the Samoans' physicality proved too much for their bedraggled opponents, as a side including Pat Lam and Brian 'The Chiropractor' Lima led the way against the woeful Welsh.

Rugby World Cup moments: Western Samoa stun Wales

7. England topple New Zealand

England produced arguably their finest Rugby World Cup performance on Saturday 26th October 2019 when they outclassed New Zealand 19-7 in the semi-finals.

Facing the two-time defending champions in hot and steamy conditions, the Red Rose produced a masterclass in incisive, clinical rugby, exposing the lack of mobility in the Kiwi back-row to break the game open and dominate all facets of the play in relentless fashion.

Rugby World Cup moments: England topple New Zealand

6. Lynagh rescues Wallabies against Ireland in World Cup classic

It is not often that a Dublin rugby crowd is silenced - but that was the case in 1991 when Australia beat the Boys in Green 19-18 in a thrilling and memorable World Cup quarter-final clash at Lansdowne Road.

Ireland looked to be on their way to the semi-finals after a hard-fought contest in which they scrapped for every ball and hit every tackle.

Leading 18-15 with just six minutes remaining, the shock looked on but Wallabies legend Michael Lynagh had other ideas, and the events of those final few moments remain etched in Rugby World Cup folklore.

Rugby World Cup moments: Lynagh rescues Wallabies against Ireland in World Cup classic

5. Sensational France fightback sends New Zealand packing

There have been many memorable moments in Rugby World Cup history and France, hosts of the 2023 edition, have fond memories of the 1999 semi-final with New Zealand.

Having lost 29-9 in the 1987 World Cup final to New Zealand, this semi-final presented France with the chance to make amends for that defeat and move just one victory away from lifting the trophy for the first time.

All hope seemed lost for the French after New Zealand scored a converted try at the beginning of the second period to make it 24-10 to the All Blacks.

But France failed to give up and they produced a stunning comeback, scoring 33 points to the All Blacks' seven to record a sensational 43-31 victory.

Rugby World Cup moments: Sensational France fightback sends New Zealand packing

4. Jonah Lomu's masterclass against England

Having edged out Australia in the quarter-finals of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, England went into their semi-final showdown against New Zealand in Cape Town full of optimism.

However, any hopes of reaching the final were quickly dashed by the barnstorming brilliance of Jonah Lomu, who inspired the All Blacks to an emphatic 45-29 victory.

Rugby World Cup moments: Jonah Lomu's masterclass against England

3. Japan shock the world

In one of the all-time great Rugby World Cup moments, the upset that Japan inflicted on South Africa in the 2015 tournament is up there as one of the best.

Few would have given the Brave Blossoms a chance of taking down the Springboks, but the underdogs did just that in the electric atmosphere of the Brighton Community Stadium on 19th September 2015.

Rugby World Cup moments: Japan shock the world

2. Jonny Wilkinson drop goal wins England 2003 final

In what was the most thrilling Rugby World Cup final to date, England secured the Webb Ellis Trophy for the first time in dramatic fashion in 2003.

Having lost the final on home soil to Australia in 1991, England were desperate to turn the tables on their rivals to triumph Down Under.

The tactical genius of coach Clive Woodward, the inspirational captaincy of Martin Johnson and the kicking ability of Jonny Wilkinson were all key factors in the Red Rose’s success.

Rugby World Cup moments: Jonny Wilkinson drop goal wins England 2003 final

1. Mandela presents Springboks with trophy

The 1995 Rugby World Cup was no ordinary sporting event. Held in a nation being pieced back together after decades of separation, the 1995 edition of the World Cup, and most memorably its conclusion, provided a message of hope and peace.

The tournament’s arrival in South Africa was well-timed, providing a welcome distraction from rising tensions in the country, but the pressure was firmly on the Boks to perform in order to permanently improve the mood.

They did more than just that, though, as South Africa won the Rugby World Cup at the first time of asking, with the handing over of the Webb Ellis Trophy by the nation’s President Nelson Mandela to captain Francois Pienaar doing more for the rainbow nation than any words could.

Rugby World Cup moments: Mandela presents Springboks with trophy

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