Rugby World Cup Winners – From Past to Present

With the 2019 Rugby World Cup fast approaching we are now of an era where individuals who enjoy watching rugby, may not know who has won the rugby world cup in the past.

The inaugural rugby world cup in 1987 was won by New Zealand. New Zealand has won the cup three times, Australia twice, South Africa twice and England once.

The following article identifies each of the following winners or the rugby world cup and gives background to the tournaments which the teams won:

Table of Rugby World Cup Winners

1987 Rugby World Cup

1991 Rugby World Cup

1995 Rugby World Cup

1999 Rugby World Cup

2003 Rugby World Cup

2007 Rugby World Cup

2011 Rugby World Cup

2015 Rugby World Cup

Table of Rugby World Cup Winners

Below is a list of the teams which have won the rugby world cup from 1987 – 2015.

New Zealand1987
South Africa1995
South Africa2007
New Zealand2011
New Zealand2015

1987 – New Zealand – Rugby World Cup Winners

Host Nation: Australia and New Zealand

The 1987 Rugby World Cup was the first tournament for the rugby world cup and was joint hosted between New Zealand and Australia. New Zealand were in Pool 3 which consisted of Fiji, Italy and Argentina. New Zealand were in emphatic form throughout the group stages, scoring 190 points with a total of 30 tries scored and only 34 points conceded. This was clearly a warning sign to the rest of the teams in the tournament that New Zealand were strong contenders of the William Web Ellis Trophy. In the quarter finals New Zealand came up against Scotland. It was a one-sided affair and New Zealand went on to win the game 30-3. Unfortunately, the home nations did not fair much better when New Zealand stormed into the semi-finals, where they met Wales. New Zealand were dominant and won the semi-final 49-6 with eight tries being scored in the game and seven of the conversions being made.

The final was played between New Zealand and France on the 20th June 1987. France has played an amazing game to beat Australia to make the final and this had taken its toll on the French team. New Zealand played a conservative game and went for points at every opportunity and won the game 29-9 to become 1987 Rugby World Cup Champions. Following a great display against the French the Sunday Tribune stated that:

I do not wish to compare this team to the 1963 all black or any other side or to comment on how good it is. You can only judge greatness by what a team wins and how long it can stay winning. I feel this team will continue winning and continue for some time in this way will achieve greatness.

Sunday Tribune – Sunday 21 June 1987

1991 – Australia – Rugby World Cup Winners

Host nation: England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and France.

The 1991 rugby World Cup was the first tournament held in the northern hemisphere. Australia who were drawn in the same pool as Argentina, Wales and a new team to the world cup Western Samoa. The surprise of the tournament was Western Samoa who beat Wales to the second qualification place in the pool. Australia beat Western Samoa 9-3 to top the pool. Australia scored 79 points within their pool matches and only conceded 29.

Australia’s quarter final would go down in history as the game of the tournament. Ireland had obtained the lead with only seven minutes of the game left with their only try of the game. Ireland had kept the game close, due to Australia giving away penalties which were in kicking distance. However, Australia dug deep and scored a last minute try which gave them win and set up a semi final against rival New Zealand. Australia were clinical in the game and New Zealand were having to chase points due to a sublime first half by Australia. Australia ran out 16-6 winners and would face England in the final at Twickenham.

England changed their tactics when facing Australia in the final, as prior to this point England had relied heavily on their forwards. An opening running game did not pull off the upset that England had hoped, and Australia would run out winners by a six-point margin. The only try of the game was scored by Australia in the first half. A penalty try could have been awarded to England as David Campese knocked on when England had an overlap to score.

Australia proved conclusively they have no equals in world rugby by winning the Web Ellis Cup in style in Twickenham yesterday. – Sunday life

1995 – South Africa – Rugby World Cup Winners

Host nation: South Africa

The 1995 Rugby World Cup was the first time that South Africa was invited to play in the compeition following the end of apartheid. Within South Africa’s pool was Australia, Canada and Romania. The opening game of the world cup was South Africa against the reigning champions Australia. A close affair was edged out with a nine point win for South Africa. This win was followed up with comprehensive wins against Canada and Romania. South Africa topped their pool and went on to face Western Samoa in the quarter finals. Chester Williams dominated the game by scoring four tries during the game and South Africa ran out winners of 42-12.

South Africa faced France in the semi-final and in a tight contest South Africa scored the only try of the game and edged out France 19 -15. This set up a final against New Zealand who had Jonah Lomu who had just devastated the England team in the semi-final by scoring four tries. The final was a tense affair and no tries were scored, in the final moments New Zealand had a drop goal to wim hoever thish went wide. With the scores tied at 9-9 the game went to extra time. The game was level at 12-12 when Joel Stransky scored a drop goal. The game was of significance as it was the first international sporting event held in South Africa since the end of apartheid. One of the most impactful moments of the Web Ellis Cup history was Nelson Mandela presenting the cup to Francois Pienaar.

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.” – Nelson Mandela

1999 – Australia – Rugby World Cup Winners

Host nation: Wales

The 1999 rugby world cup was held solely in Wales. Australia was in a pool with Ireland, Romania and the United States. Australia made light work of Romania in their opening pool game. Australia’s second pool game would be against Ireland, which was the game to decide who topped the pool and Australia won with a twenty point cushion.  On the back of this win Australia went on to thump the USA and progress to the next quarter final stage of the competition.

In the quarterfinal Australia met the host nation of Wales. This was a major potential banana skin, as a home crowd can play a decisive factor in a game of this stature.  However, Australia were comprehensive in their game play and crossed the white wash three times. Australia limited Wales to three penalty kicks and won the quarter final 24-9 to progress to the semi finals.

Australia faced South Africa who had demolished England in the the tournaments other qauter-final. Unlike the New Zealand and France semi-final, this game was tense and Australia almost had the game won in normal time however, Jannie De Beer capitalised on an Australian penalty when the clock had passed 80 minutes. This lead to extra time and an extremely unlikely source of the winning drop goal was Stephen Larkham who scored a 48 meter drop goal to clinch victory. As an England fan it was quite fitting seeing South Africa being eliminated in the manner, as De Beer has destroyed England with his drop goals in the previous rounds.

The final was against France at the millennium stadium in Cardiff. The game was a kicking affair in the first half with penalties being traded both ways. The second half was a tense affair however, Australia scored two second half tries to make the score more than comfortable and win the rugby world cup with a 35-12 victory.

Australia won this competition because they are the most multi-faceted, adaptable and accomplished side. Whatever type of game that you wanted to play the Australians always has an answer and always had the players within their squad to deal with any situation.  – Sunday Tribune

2003 – England – Rugby World Cup Champions

Host nation: Australia

England travelled to Australia for the 2003 rugby world cup and were in a pool with South Africa, who had destroyed England in the quarter finals four years earlier, Samoa, Uruguay and Georgia. England made light work of Georgia beating them 84-6. In theory the pool decider would be between South Africa and England and this was England’s second match of the pool. England limited South Africa to two penalties. The boot of Johnny Wilkinson and a try from Will Greenwood allowed England to run out clear winners 25-6. England went on to beat Samoa and 35-22 and demolished Uruguay 111-13.

England faced home nation Wales in the quarter final which was a tight affair and only made safe in the last few minutes with a drop goal from Wilkinson. Johnny Wilkinson scored six penalties alone in the game as well as the drop goal and a conversion. The boot of Johnny Wilkinson was a constant threat throughout the rugby world cup and Wilkinson ended up being the highest pointed scorer of the competition.

England met another home nation in the semi final in the form of France. France scored an early try however, that was the only points scored in the entire game. Although England did not score any tries in the game, Wilkinson despatched five penalties and three drop goals. This win led to a showdown against the host nation and previous world cup winners, Australia.

Australia started the final with a quick try however, Wilkinson’s kicks and a try from Jason Robinson put England in the lead going into half time. However, throughout the second half Australia edged their way back into the game. Australia had a penalty with the last kick of the game to send the game to extra time. Again the boot of Wilkinson edged England in front however, Australia drew level. With the dying seconds of extra time, England retained position and edged closer to the posts. Matt Dawson passed the ball back to Wilkinson who scored a drop goal to win England the Rugby world Cup.

The effect of seeing England receiving the best bragging rights in rugby will have been felt first in Australia and rightly so, but don’t imagine that the anguish unrequited antagonism is not being among England neighbours back home. – Irish Independent.

2007 – South Africa – Rugby World Cup Champions

Host nation: France

South Africa were drawn in a pool of England, Tonga, Samoa and the United States. South Africa’s main competition within the group was England, who were the defending champions. However, South Africa destroyed England 36-0. It was Tonga who actually almost beat South Africa but lost by five points. Samoa and United States were easily beaten by a dominant South Africa Team.

South Africa came up against Fiji in the quarter final stage and scored five tries to Fiji’s two. Although Fiji kicked a couple of penalties Fiji never got close to South Africa who ran out 37-20 winners. South Africa faced Argentina in the semi final of the tournament. South Africa were dominant in the first half and lead 24-6. Argentina did fight back however, the task was too large for the Argentinean team to conquer. The win for South Africa meant a final was set up against England.

South Africa were immensely disciplined in the final and stopped England from scoring any tries and Wilkinson who was Englands hero in the 2003 world cup was unable to bring England close to South Africa. South Africa scored five penalties and won the final 15-6.

South Africa have now played in two rugby world cup finals , won them both and not scored a single try in either. We are surely entitled to ask not only what that tells us about the Springboks approach but also about what is wrong with the modern game. – Irish Independent.

2011 – New Zealand – Rugby World Cup Champions

Host nation : New Zealand

New Zealand were drawn in a pool with France, Tonga, Canada and Japan. As the host nation New Zealand opened the competition with a game against Tonga and won comfortably 41-10. Japan were the next opponent New Zealand faced and Japan were easily beaten 83-7. France were no match for New Zealand in the game which would decide who would top the pool and New Zealand won 37-17. Canada was the last game for New Zealand in the pool and this was a comfortable win for New Zealand winning 79-15.

In the quarter finals New Zealand faced Argentina. Ill discipline from the Argentinean team was capitalised on by the New Zealand team who kicked seven penalties during the game and this gave New Zealand a 33-10 win. This set up a semi final clash with rivals Australia. New Zealand were in formidable form and Australia seemed to be tired from the quarter final clash against South Africa. A 20-6 win for New Zealand set up a final against France.

The final was a tense affair, as New Zealand and France scored a try a piece. However, New Zealand missed their conversion whereas, France converted theirs. Prior to the French try, New Zealand converted a penalty to take the lead by one point. This lead to a nervy ending however. New Zealand managed to hold to win the World Cup.

2015- New Zealand – Rugby World Cup Champions

Host nation: England

New Zealand were drawn in a pool with Argentina, Georgia, Tonga and Nambia. New Zealand opened their campaign against Argentina, who New Zealand beat by 10 points,  26-16. New Zealand had a four day turn around before they had to play Nambia who they beat 58-14. New Zealand went on to beat Georgia 43-10 and Tonga 47-9. New Zealand topped the group and this set up a quarter final against France who almost beat New Zealand in the previous tournament.

New Zealand were devastating in their quarter final against France. Nine tries were scored by New Zealand and France could only reply with one try. This emphatic win set the tone that New Zealand were very keen to win back to back world cups. The thrashing of France set up a semi final against South Africa. The semi final was a much more tense and close affair. The semi final was a gritty performance as South Africa’s kicking kept them in touch with New Zealand all the way to the final whistle. The semi final win for New Zealand set up a final against old rival Australia.

New Zealand met Australia in the final and at half time it looked like New Zealand would easily win their third world cup, as they went into half time 21-3. However, Australia fought back and with a few minutes to go Australia were pressuring the New Zealand try line to bring the score of 27-17 closer. However, an interception and a beautiful kick which set up Barrett for a try to clinch the world cup. One notable moment from the New Zealand was the celebrations afterwards, when a young fan ran onto the pitch and was tackled by a security guard, Sonny Bill Williams gave the fan his rugby world cup winners medal.

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