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10 Of The Biggest Shock Results In Rugby World Cup History

There have been some monumental upsets in the history of the Rugby World Cup, from the inaugural event in 1987 right the way up to the last tournament in 2015. Here are 10 of the biggest...

Argentina 30 Ireland 15 – 2007

Ireland had a shocking World Cup in 2007, but they were still expected to beat Argentina when they needed to as they needed victory to escape the pool stage. In fact they needed to score four tries and beat Argentina by eight points to make the knockout stages, but they fell a long, long way short of that.
Argentina had beaten France already in this tournament – more of that later – but the comfortable nature of their win over the Irish was still a real shock and tremendously impressive.
Two tries for the Argentines and no less than three drop goal from the excellent Juan Martin Hernandez produced the memorable result.

Samoa 31 Wales 28 (1999)

This was the final game of the pool stage and Wales had already booked their place in the quarter-finals with two victories, but in front of their home crowd, they were certainly taking this one very seriously.
This was a great Welsh side, with name such as Jenkins (N and G), Howley, Quinnell, Llewellyn and more but they were over-powered by the Samoans who also stormed into the knockout stages.
Neil Jenkins broke the world record for Test points in this game, but that was overshadowed by the surprise defeat in Cardiff.

Wales 22-21 Australia (1987)

At other points in rugby union history this would not be seen as a massive shock, but the Australians were expected to comfortably see off the Welsh when they met in the third place match in Rotorua in the first ever World Cup.
Wales were coming off a thrashing from New Zealand in the semi-finals, while Australia were narrowly upset by France (more of that later). Future legends Michael Lynagh and David Campese were in the Australia side but it was Welsh kicker Paul Thorburn who won the victory by the slimmest of margins with a superb conversion from wide.

Fiji 38 – 34 Wales, 2007

This upset loss cost Wales a place in the quarter-finals, which made it all the more surprising as they had every reason to be switched on and ready for the Fijians. It was a pulsating and exciting game with a thrilling finish as a try from Fiji’s Graham Dewes with three minutes to go proved the difference and dumped the Welsh out of the competition.
Fiji looked to be heading to a dominant win, scoring three tries before Wales crossed the line themselves, but Gareth Thomas’ side stormed back with five of their own, before Dewes broke their hearts at the death to see Fiji into the knockout stages for the first time since 1987.

France 12 Argentina 17, 2007

Before Argentina beat Ireland in 2007 they had already downed the tournament hosts in the opener in Paris, stunning the French crowd and beginning their run which ended with a third-place finish in the tournament.
It was a tight game at the Stade de France but Argentina were always in control, never being behind at any point and scoring the only try of the game in the first half.
Argentina had only been past the pool stage once in five attempts before and the hosts were expecting to start their event with a bang, they didn’t get what they wanted.


Ireland 15-6 Australia (2011)

Australia went into the 2011 tournament heavily fancied as the Tri-Nations champions and, not quite on home soil, but not too far away in New Zealand. They also backed up that tag as one of the favourites in their opening pool match by trouncing Italy 32-6.
Ireland, as ever, were a solid proposition but certainly not expected to challenge for the trophy but they turned in a superb display, and the boots of Jonathan Sexton and Ronan O’Gara made the difference. The Aussies were restricted to just two penalties while Ireland had chances to extend their lead further in one of the great results in their history.


France 43-31 New Zealand (1999)

Not just one of the biggest shocks but one of the greatest games in World Cup history as France stormed back from a huge deficit to stun the tournament favourites in front of a packed Twickenham.
The French were not a bad side by any stretch, but the All Blacks were everybody’s tip to win the tournament in 1999 and had looked dominant en route to the semi-finals. New Zealand comfortably beat Tonga and England in the pool stage then obliterated Italy 101-3 to steamroll into the quarters where Scotland were no match for them.
The Kiwis then took a 24-10 lead against France and it all seemed to be going to plan before a remarkable resurgence from France. Tries from Christian Dominici, Richard Dourthe and Philippe Bernat-Salles and some cracking kicking from Christophe Lamaison turned the tide and New Zealand had no answers, slumping to the stunning defeat.


France 30 Australia 24. (1987)

Australia losing to Wales in the third-place play-off was a shock, but not nearly as much of a surprise as the Wallabies losing to France in the semi-finals. The Aussies were widely expected to win the tournament before a ball was kicked and France were certainly not expected to stop them after the Aussies had comfortable seen off Ireland and England earlier in the competition.
Three times Australia took the lead in the semi-finals but France showed their remarkable resilience in this tournament and pulled off an outrageous victory thanks to four tries and the reliable boot of Didier Camberabero. They couldn’t repeat their heroics in the final, losing handily to the All Blacks.


Wales 13-16 Western Samoa (1991)

Wales enjoyed themselves at the 1987 World Cup, finishing third, but it all went horribly wrong for them four years later at home. Their opening match of the tournament was at Cardiff Arms Park and was meant to be something of a procession in front of their adoring fans, but it didn’t turn out that way.
There were two tries-a-piece, but it turned out the little known Mathew Vaea of Western Samoa was more reliable with the boot than Wales’ Mark Ring and that made the difference.
The Welsh went on to beat Argentina but then get a hammering from Australia to fall at the pool stage in their lowest moment in rugby union at the time.

Japan 34-32 South Africa (2015)

The mother of all upsets came in, of all places, Brighton, when Japan stunned South Africa in the pool stages of the 2015 tournament. It was the first match of Pool B and no one saw it coming, with the Japanese going without a win in the World Cup since 1991.
It was a competitive first half but South Africa led 12-10 at the break and the consensus was that Japan would tire and the Springboks would run away with things in the second half. The underdog had other ideas, though, despite South Africa scoring the first two tries of the second stanza.
Japan replied with a try of their own, while the excellent kicking of Ayumu Goromaru kept them in touch before Karne Hesketh crossed the line in the final minute to give his side the narrow win and his country’s most incredible moment in the sport.

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