Wallabies at the Rugby World Cup

Wallabies at the Rugby World Cup
1987, Australia and New Zealand

The first Rugby World Cup was an invitation only affair with 16 teams from the strongest Rugby playing nations. South Africa was excluded due to sporting bans, while New Zealand had imposed bans on a number of their players following an unofficial 1986 Cavaliers tour of South Africa.

The 1987 Rugby World Cup team. Photo: Getty Images

Australia entered the inaugural World Cup as strong favourites on the back of an undefeated Grand Slam tour of the Home Nations in 1984, and a 2-1 away series win over the All Blacks in 1986.

Pool 1

Australia v England - 19-6

Australia v USA - 47-12

Australia v Japan - 42-23

Quarter-Final – Australia v Ireland - 33-15

Finishing top of Pool A with England second, Australia defeated Ireland in the Quarter Final before progressing to the Semi-Finals.

Semi-Final – Australia v France – 24-30

The Semi-Final between Australia and France at Concord Oval was the match of the tournament and is still widely regarded as one of the best matches in the history of the game. In a match where the lead would change seven times, the score was locked at 24-24 when French full-back Serge Blanco dived for the corner in the dying moments, crossing the line to secure France a dramatic 30-24 victory and a place in the Final against New Zealand.

Third Place Play-Off – Australia v Wales – 21-22

Australia were relegated to a third place play-off with Wales and for the second time in less than a week, the Wallabies would suffer another loss in injury time to finish in 4th place. Final Placing: Bronze Finalist

Captain: Andrew Slack

Coach: Alan Jones

Winner: New Zealand

Runner Up: France

Player of the Tournament: David Kirk (NZL)

1991, England

New Zealand was expected to win back-to-back World Cup titles in 1991, but patchy form from the All Blacks pushed Australia into the position of tournament favourites, as the competition progressed.

Pool 3

Australia v Argentina – 19-32

Australia v West Samoa–9-3

Australia v Wales - 38–3

Quarter-Final – Australia v Ireland – 19-18

Finishing top of Pool C, Australia progressed to the final after a heroic quarter-final comeback to beat Ireland.

Semi- Final – Australia v New Zealand – 16-6

A near flawless performance against All Blacks in the semi-finals saw the Wallabies progress into the final with England

Final – Australia v England – 12-6

In the final, England abandoned their usual forward-dominated game and decided to run the ball at Australia, a costly tactical error and one England could not recover from, when they eventually reverted back after half time. Tony Daly made the lone Wallaby try after he and fellow prop Ewen McKenzie dived over the rolling maul, with the ball beneath them to set up a 12-6 victory against England.

Tony Daly, Simon Poidevin and Michael Lynagh celebrating being crowd World Champions. Photo: Getty Images

‘England became a bit fearful of the outcome and went back to playing for field positions. Our forwards really stood up when that happened in the second half, and that is what really won it for us’ – Tim Horan

Winner: Australia

Captain: Nick Farr-Jones

Coach: Bob Dwyer

Winner: Australia

Runner Up: England

Player of the Tournament: David Campese (AUS)

1995, South Africa

Not only was Australia the reigning Rugby World Cup Champions, they were also unbeaten for more than twelve months prior to the tournament and were therefore clear favourites to defend their title.

Pool A

Australia v South Africa – 18-27

Australia v Canada – 27-11

Australia v Romania – 42-3 Canada

After an opening game defeat against South Africa, Australia took second place in the pool and faced a quarter-final clash against England

Quarter- Final – Australia v England – 22-25

England took an early lead but the boot of Michael Lynagh kept Australia in touch with penalty goals, with Damian Smith scoring a memorable try early in the second half. Rob Andrew landed two penalty goals that drew England level on 22-22, with only minutes remaining. In the final passages of the match Rob Andrew scored the winning drop goal from 40 metres sending Australia out of the series.

With the backing of an entire population of 43 million and the inspiration of Nelson Mandela, South Africa would beat New Zealand in the final to win the World Cup, in their first attempt after being excluded previously due to sporting bans.

‘Disappointment is too light a word to describe our feelings’ – Michael Lynagh

Final Placing: Quarter Final

Captain: Michael Lynagh

Coach: Bob Dwyer

Winner: South Africa

Runner Up: New Zealand

Player of the Tournament: Jonah Lomu (NZL)

1999, Wales

The number of teams competing increased from 16 to 20, with only the three top teams from the 1995 World Cup plus the host nation, being granted automatic qualification. A record 65 countries were competiting for the remaining 16 places.

Pool E

Australia v Romania – 57-9

Australia v Ireland – 23-3

Australia v USA – 55-19 Quarter-Final – Australia v Wales – 24-9

After finishing in first place in Pool E, Australia progressed to the first Quarter Final, securing a 24-9 victory over host nation Wales. Australia then played South Africa in the first semi-final to decide who would be the first team through to the final.

Semi-Final – Australia v South Africa – 27-21

Australia was wary of the drop-goal threat posed by the so called ‘Foot of God’, South African fly-half Jannie de Beer. Locked at 21-21 after 80 minutes of regulation time, in an ironic twist of fate Australian fly-half Steve Larkham landed his first drop goal in international Rugby – a 48metre kick, six minutes from the end of the game to give Australia the win.

Final – Australia v France – 35-12

Australia were aware of the tactics France had used in the Semi-Final to unsettle New Zealand, and were determined to not fall victim to these same tactics in the final. As France continued with their attempts to unsettle Australia behind the cover of rucks and mauls, Captain John Eales immediately brought it to the attention of the referee. After players were allegedly subjected to eye gouging, Eales went so far as to threaten to take his players off the field before receiving a yellow card, after referee made it clear he had received enough refereeing advice. With one player less on both sides, Australia scored the first try after 67 minutes quickly followed by another, giving Australia an insurmountable lead. Australia became the first country to win Rugby World Cup for the second time.

‘There is no easy way to win a final, but the great thing about that final was for that few at the end when we know we couldn’t be beaten. You just don’t get that opportunity much in a big match’ – John Eales

Final Placing: Winner

Captain: John Eales

Coach: Rod MacQueen

Winner: Australia

Runner Up: France

Player of the Tournament: Tim Horan (AUS)

2003, Australia

England entered the 2003 Rugby World Cup as the number one team in the world with Australia ranked number two.

Pool A

Australia v Argentina – 24-8

Australia v Romania – 90-8

Australia v Namibia – 142-0

Australia v Ireland – 17-16

Dubbed the ‘Pool of Death,’ Australia faced Argentina in the first match and had a narrow victory over Ireland in the last of the pool matches

Quarter-Final – Australia v Scotland – 33-16

Progressing to the Quarter finals, Australia played Scotland, where after scores were locked at half time, Australia went on to a comfortable win.

Semi-Final – Australia v New Zealand – 22-10

One of the greatest performances by the Wallabies came in the Semi-Final against New Zealand. With the All Blacks expected to win the match, the Wallabies came out and threw caution to the wind as they outplayed their New Zealand counter parts in every facet of the game. The match also included a famous intercept try by Stirling Mortlock.

While Australia took on New Zealand in the first of the semi-finals, scoring a memorable win which left the New Zealanders shattered, England achieved a comfortable victory over France, with Jonny Wilkinson providing a flawless 24 point kicking display.

Final – Australia v England – 17-20

In the Final Australia struck first with a try from Lote Tuqiri, but England soon responded with three penalty goals by Jonny Wilkinson. England failed to score a single point in the second half while Elton Flatly slotted three penalty goals for Australia to bring the scores level at 14-14 after 80 minutes of regular time.

Wilkinson kicked a penalty goal two minutes into the first period of extra time, but Flatley again drew the score level for Australia. One minute later Jonny Wilkinson received a pass and kicked a drop goal with his less-favoured right boot, sealing an historic victory for England, the first Northern Hemisphere team to win the Rugby World Cup

Final Placing: Finalist

Captain: George Gregan

Coach: Eddie Jones

Winner: England

Runner Up: Australia

Player of the Tournament: Jonny Wilkinson (ENG)

2007, France

The odds were very much against Australia winning their third World Cup after an indifferent tour of Europe; drawing with Wales and being defeated by Ireland. New Zealand on the other hand had entered the tournament as firm favourites and looked certain to win their second World Cup

Pool B

Australia v Canada – 37-6

Australia v Fiji – 55-12

Australia v Japan – 91-3

Australia v Wales – 32-20

Securing first place in Pool B, the quarter final was a re-match of 2003 final with Australia lined up against defending champions England.

Quarter-Final – Australia v England – 10-12

Australia were the favourites after England had suffered a humiliating loss to South Africa in their Pool A matches. Jonny Wilkinson had once again kicked his team to a 6-3 lead, before a try from Lote Tuqiri and a conversion from Stirling Mortlock gave Australia a 10-6 lead at half time. Australia maintained this lead up until the 60th minute, when Wilkinson slotted his fourth penalty goal and England was once again in the lead. Mortlock was given one last opportunity to put Australia in the lead with a penalty goal in the last five minutes, but the shot missed and England held on for victory, bringing Australia’s 2007 campaign to an end.

‘It’s an extremely quiet, dull change room at the moment. They’re extremely disappointed with the way we played today. Personally, obviously goal kicking wise, I’m very disappointed. I should’ve kicked them’- Stirling Mortlock

Final Placing: Quarter-Final

Captain: Stirling Mortlock

Coach: John Connolly

Winner: South Africa

Runner Up: France

Player of the Tournament: Bryan Habana (STH AFRICA)

2011, New Zealand

Hosts, New Zealand once again went into the Tournament as favourites. In 2010 they had claimed their third Grand Slam and if they had not been beaten by the Wallabies in Hong Kong, they would have been on their way to setting a new mark for consecutive Test victories.

Pool C

Australia v Italy – 32-6

Australia v Ireland – 6-15

Australia v USA – 67-5

Australia v Russia – 68-22

After a loss to Ireland, Australia finished second in their pool and faced South Africa in the 3rd Quarter Final in Wellington.

Quarter Final – Australia v South Africa – 11-9

With little possession and only 24 per cent of the territory the Wallabies courageous defence and a thrilling penalty kick from James O’Connor, won the game for Australia. This allowed the Wallabies to progress to the Semi- Finals match against New Zealand.

Semi Final – Australia v New Zealand – 6-20

It had been 24 years since New Zealand had won the World Cup and the pressure was well and truly resting on the host nation’s shoulders from an expectant public and a demanding media. After being bundled out of the previous five tournaments, the All Blacks took to the field with the added pressure and expectations of a home crowd. A nervous start by Wallaby Quade Cooper, sending the opening kick-off into touch on the full, was followed by erratic kicking, crumbling scrums, and tentative defence, which was no match for the passion and determination shown by New Zealand. Producing one of their best matches of the tournament, New Zealand progressed to the Final against France, while Australia went to Eden Park for the Bronze Final against Wales.

Third Place Play Off – Australia v Wales – 21-18

The Welsh had been one of the great successes of the Tournament and after losing to France in the Semi-finals, they were out for redemption. Although the teams finished with two tries each, the Welsh could not subdue an Australian team determined to diminish their disappointing loss against New Zealand, and take home the Bronze medal. Final score Australia 21 Wales 18.

Final Placing: Bronze Final Winner

Captain: James Horwill

Coach: Robbie Deans

Winner: New Zealand

Runner Up: France Players of the tournament: Israel Dagg, Jerome Kaino (NZL) Jamie Roberts (WAL) Sean O’Brien (IRL) Jacques Burger (NAM)

2015, England

The All Blacks entered the 2015 tournament as the hottest of favourites having lost just three Tests since the 2011 final. Nonetheless a renewed sense of optimism surrounded Australia’s prospects after they inflicted the third of those New Zealand defeats in mid-August on their way to winning the Rugby Championship for the first time in four years. Ireland, on the back of successive Six Nations titles, were the most fancied of the Northern Hemisphere sides. 

Pool A

Australia v Fiji – 28-13

Australia v Uruguay - 65-3

Australia v England - 33-13

Australia v Wales - 15-6

The Wallabies topped Pool A after they humbled the hosts at Twickenham and then delivered one of the greatest defensive performances of all-time, when reduced to just 13 men for almost 10 minutes of the second half, against Wales.

Quarter Final – Australia v Scotland – 35-34

A hotly debated 78th minute off-side call from referee Craig Joubert allowed Bernard Foley to slot the match-winning penalty goal and in doing so denied Scotland the opportunity to scupper a clean sweep of the semi-finals by The Rugby Championship quartet. Australia scored five tries to three however the boot of Scottish captain Greg Laidlaw kept his side in the hunt before the most dramatic of finishes saw the Wallabies advance. Semi Final - Australia v Argentina - 29-15

A shock 2nd minute intercept try to lock Rob Simmons combined with a hat-trick from Adam Ashley-Cooper saw Australia emerge victorious against a stubbornly resilient Argentina. Five penalty goals had the Pumas behind by just seven points as the match entered the final 10 minutes before Ashley-Cooper scored his third try to put the result to bed. 

Final - Australia v New Zealand - 34-17

New Zealand confirmed their standing as rugby's premier team when they became the first side to retain the World Cup. A Dan Carter masterclass saw the All Blacks take a commanding 16-3 half-time lead before tries from David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani helped the Wallabies to trail by just 17-21 with quarter of an hour left to play. A dropped goal and then a penalty goal, both to Carter, were followed by a breakaway try for Beauden Barrett in the final minute to confirm the All Blacks as back-to-back champions. 

Final Placing: Runner up 

Captain: Stephen Moore

Coach: Michael Cheika

Winner: New Zealand 

2019, Japan
Pool D

For the first time a Rugby World Cup was held in Asia. New Zealand were at short odds to record an historic “three-peat” however two losses to Ireland, a drawn series with the Lions and third place in the 2019 Rugby Championship across the course of the four-year cycle suggested this tournament would be the most even of all-time. The fact that three teams, the All Blacks, Wales and Ireland, each held the number one ranking leading into the Cup set up what proved to be a glorious six weeks of rugby. Australia’s form had been quite inconsistent since making the 2015 final before a record-equalling 21 point win over a 14-man New Zealand in Perth just six weeks prior to the tournament offered an encouraging insight into the team’s latent potential.

Australia v Fiji – 39-21

Australia v Wales - 25-29

Australia v Uruguay - 45-10

Australia v Georgia - 27-8

Quarter Final – Australia v England - 16-40

A heartbreaking loss to Wales confined the Wallabies to second spot in Pool D and set up a date with destiny against their World Cup nemesis England. With former Australian coach Eddie Jones in charge the English had held the wood over the Wallabies since their loss at Twickenham in 2015 and entered the match as clear favourite. Two tries within three minutes at the mid-point of the opening half enabled England to lead 17-9 at the break however Australia struck back with a converted try by Marika Koroibete to trail by just a single point early in the second half. England replied immediately with a Kyle Sinckler five pointer before a sublime kicking performance from Owen Farrell put the game firmly beyond Australia’s reach. 

Final Placing: Quarter-Final

Captain: Michael Hooper

Coach: Michael Cheika

Winner: South Africa

1987 New Zealand and Australia, Andrew Slack

Wallaby no. 595

Brisbane, Queensland

Tests: 39

Debut: 1978 v Wales, Brisbane Queensland and Australia centre who is most famous for leading the Wallabies on their successful 1984 Grand Slam tour which saw the stylish outfit record victories over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, outscoring their opponents 100 points to 33 in the four Tests. He was also at the helm for Australia’s heralded Bledisloe Cup series victory in 1986, and beyond to the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987. The Wallabies finished fourth in the tournament after a narrow semi-final defeat to France at Concord Oval in Sydney, which was to be the final match of his decorated Wallabies career. Slack was Captain in 19 of his 39 Tests.

1991 England and Wales, Nick Farr-Jones

Wallaby no. 645

Sydney, New South Wales

Tests: 63

Debut: 1984 v England, London New South Wales and Australia scrumhalf who was the first Wallabies Captain to hold aloft the Webb Ellis Cup after leading the team to an historic victory in 1991. Arguably the most complete and accomplished number 9 in Wallabies history, Farr-Jones flourished in the leadership role after being appointed Captain in 1988, leading the team in a then-record 36 Tests. The Wallabies topped their Pool at the ’91 tournament with wins over Western Samoa, Wales and Argentina, before accounting for Ireland in a dramatic quarter-final and a semi-final defeat of New Zealand before toppling England 12-6 to win the crown at Twickenham.

1995 South Africa, Michael Lynagh

Wallaby no. 642

Brisbane, Queensland

Tests: 72

Debut: 1984 v Fiji, Suva The man nicknamed “Noddy” was the complete flyhalf, a schoolboy wonder who went on to lead the Wallabies on 15 occasions in his 72 Tests, including at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. While Australia fell to England in the quarter-final, Lynagh would retire at the end of the tournament as the greatest points scorer in Wallabies history. He played a key role in the triumphant 1991 World Cup campaign as vice-captain, slotting two crucial penalty goals in the 12-6 victory over England in the Final at Twickenham. In all, across 12 years of international Rugby he played 103 matches in the gold jersey, compiling a mammoth 1157 points.

1999 Wales, John Eales

Wallaby no. 694

Brisbane, Queensland

Tests: 86

Debut: 1991 v Wales, Brisbane Revolutionary Queensland and Australia lock who is regarded by many as the finest player of his generation. The dominant lineout forward in world Rugby throughout his 11-year Test career, Eales is Australia’s most revered and decorated Test captain. He started in every Test he played and held aloft the Bledisloe Cup more than any other Australian Captain, as well capturing very major international trophy available to an Australian Test player. Eales played 55 of his 86 Tests as Captain, leading the Wallabies to a second Rugby World Cup crown in 1999. The Wallabies conquered all at the tournament, defeating USA, Romania and Ireland in the pool, before a quarter-final victory over Wales, a semi-final defeat of a South Africa and a dominant 35-12 win over France in the Final.

2003 Australia, George Gregan

Wallaby no. 717

Lusaka, Zambia

Tests: 139

Debut: 1994 v Italy, Brisbane Brumbies and Australia scrumhalf who has played more Tests for the Wallabies and captained the team more than any other player in history. His 139 matches are currently the third-most by any player in the world. Gregan’s influence on the Wallabies was immediate, helping Australia to a Bledisloe Cup triumph in his rookie year after making “that tackle” on All Blacks winger Jeff Wilson, a moment frozen in time and etched into Australian Rugby folklore. A member of the victorious 1999 Rugby World Cup team, he led the Wallabies on their mission to defend the crown in 2003. While the tournament was punctuated by a semi-final defeat of New Zealand, the Wallabies fell agonizingly short of completing the mission after an extra-time loss to England in the Final in Sydney.

2007 France,  Stirling Mortlock

Wallaby no. 759

Sydney, New South Wales

Tests: 80

Debut: 2000 v Argentina, Brisbane Bullocking Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Australia centre who led by his courageous playing style to Captain the Wallabies in 29 of his 80 Tests. Mortlock is currently the fifth-highest points scorer and eleventh-highest try scorer all-time for the Wallabies following a career that spanned eight seasons. He amassed 489 Test points and was also the first player to reach the milestone of 1000 points in Super Rugby. The goal-kicking outside centre Captained the Wallabies to the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, where after sweeping through pool matches against Japan, Wales, Fiji and Canada, the Wallabies fell to eventual finalists England in the quarter-final.

2011 New Zealand, James Horwill

Wallaby no. 819

Brisbane, Queensland

Tests: 62

Debut: 2007 v Fiji, Perth Queensland and Australia lock who skippered the Reds to a maiden Super Rugby title in 2011 before being handed the Wallabies captaincy ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. A selfless character who led by example on the field, Horwill’s natural leadership qualities led to his appointments at both the Reds and Wallabies at a young age. The Wallabies entered the 2011 tournament on the back of a memorable Tri-Nations victory under Horwill but were unable to overcome the All Blacks when the two nations met again in a tense World Cup semi-final at Eden Park in Auckland. The Wallabies had earlier claimed a gripping quarter-final victory over South Africa in Wellington.

2015 England, Stephen Moore

Wallaby no. 796

Khamis, Saudi Arabia

Tests: 129

Debut: 2005 v Samoa, Sydney Queensland, Brumbies and Australia hooker who is the second-most capped player in Wallabies Test history and is the only Australian hooker to have played 100 Tests. His 177 Super Rugby appearances for the Reds and Brumbies make him currently the second-most capped player in the tournament’s 24-year history. Moore became the 81st player to Captain the Wallabies in 2014 and led them on a magical run in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, with memorable defeats over England, Wales, Scotland and Argentina on the way to the Final. In an evenly-matched decider at Twickenham, the Wallabies would ultimately fall short with a 34-17 defeat to New Zealand.

2019 Japan, Michael Hooper

Wallaby no. 859

Sydney, New South Wales

Tests: Current

Debut: 2012 v Scotland, Newcastle