World Cup - Top 10: World Cup teams
We look at the Top 10 teams in World Cup history.
New Zealand 1987
Sean Fitzpatrick, John Kirwan, Grant Fox and Michael Jones – the All Black greats trip off the tongue. And they duly delivered as first winners of the Webb Ellis Trophy with six victories from six games, running up 298 points and conceding only 52 in the process. No world champions have been so dominant since.
While the Wallaby front five was not in the same league as England’s, their backs were among some of the most skilful to grace the game – wing David Campese, centres Jason Little and Tom Horan, goalkicking fly-half Michael Lynagh and scrum-half Nick Farr-Jones, who deservedly lifted the trophy after a 12-6 win over England.
New Zealand 1995
OK, so the All Blacks came unstuck in the final, but what exhilarating rugby they played beforehand, chalking up 315 points in just five games, including a 145-17 rout of Japan. The likes of Sean Fitzpatrick, Ian Jones, Zinzan Brooke and Josh Kronfeld laid the platform for wing Jonah Lomu and co to run amok.
South Africa 1995
The Springboks did their homework right on rampaging All Black Jonah Lomu and New Zealand had no plan B. The result – a merited and emotional triumph for South Africa on their Rugby World Cup debut. Flanker Francois Pienaar was an inspirational captain, Joost van der Westhuizen an outstanding scrum-half and Joel Stransky an immaculate goalkicker.
Yes, they were a major letdown in the final, but Christophe Lamaison, Christophe Dominici, Richard Dourthe and Philippe Bernat-Salles ensured France’s contribution to this tournament will never be forgotten by scoring the 43 points that stunned New Zealand in a fabulous semi-final, after the All Blacks had led 24-10.
No side has scored more points in a Rugby World Cup final than Australia’s 35 in 1999 nor won by a bigger margin than their 23. Even though France were woeful, the Wallabies excelled, lock John Eales leading by example, Stephen Larkham and George Gregan dictating play at half-back, and Matt Burke a reliable goalkicker.
After years of preparation it all finally came right for Clive Woodward’s England, but not before many nails had been bitten to the quick. On paper, they were the stand-out team in Australia, with such world-class players as Martin Johnson, Jonny Wilkinson, Jason Robinson and Lawrence Dallaglio, but they made their fans sweat before lifting the trophy.
With Stephen Larkham and George Gregan again pulling the strings at half-back and flyers on the wings in Wendell Sailor and Lote Tuqiri, the Wallabies arguably played the best rugby of the 2003 tournament, but they had the misfortune to come up against a more experienced and streetwise team in the final.
The Pumas are worthy of their place in this list for the way they shook up the order of world rugby in 2007. After upsetting principal hosts France 17-12 in the event’s opener, they commanded their pool and beat Scotland in the last eight. The Pumas then recovered from a semi-final mauling by South Africa to thrash the French 34-10 in the third-place play-off.
South Africa 2007
A powerful pack boasting the world’s top second row in Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha allied to formidable front and back rows, lethal finishers in Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, and consistent goalkicking from Percy Montgomery and Francois Steyn ensured a comfortable second Webb Ellis Trophy for an efficient Springbok outfit.