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Greatest upsets in history of Rugby World Cup

A look back at some memorable upsets from the Rugby World Cup.

Japan celebrated a famous victory over South Africa in Brighton during the 2015 World Cup. (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Japan celebrated a famous victory over South Africa in Brighton during the 2015 World Cup. (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent

Japan produced another seismic World Cup shock when beating Ireland 19-12 in Shizuoka on Saturday.

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Here, the PA news agency looks back at five of the tournament’s greatest upsets.

Wales 13 Western Samoa 16 (Cardiff, 1991)

The lineage of World Cup giant-killing began in the amateur era. Wales were co-hosts yet they were slain by an unheralded Western Samoa team, who were treated with the utmost respect thereafter. The Pacific Islanders were now firmly on the rugby map having become the first non-seeded team to topple a seeded side, while Wales failed to qualify from their group.

France 43 New Zealand 31 (London, 1999)

France saw off the All Blacks 43-31 in the 1999 World Cup semi-finals at at Twickenham. (Tom Hevezi/PA)

Possibly the greatest upset between tier-one nations, France pulled off the impossible by fighting back from a a 24-10 half-time deficit. After a first half that had seen Jonah Lomu rampage across Twickenham, Les Bleus were touched by brilliance to outscore the imploding All Blacks 33-7. Christophe Lamaison was at the heart of the fightback that booked a place in the final, while wings Philippe Bernat-Salles and Christophe Dominici scored memorable tries.

New Zealand 18 France 20 (Cardiff, 2007)

French celebrated victory over New Zealand in the 2007 World Cup quarter-finals. (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Lightning struck twice for the All Blacks and once again it was France who emerged as their tormentors. A closer affair than eight years earlier, but every bit as startling. New Zealand suffered for their refusal to take a drop goal in the closing stages but, given their first-half dominance, they should already have been out of sight. Cue a famous quarter-final collapse as Thierry Dusautoir and Yannick Jauzion scored tries.

Japan 34 South Africa 32 (Brighton, 2015)

Not only the greatest World Cup upset of all time, but also the most seismic shock in the sport’s history. Two-time winners South Africa fell to an injury-time try by Karne Hesketh in a match that has been made into a film called the ‘Miracle of Brighton’, which is to be released during this autumn’s tournament. It was a win that effectively secured Eddie Jones, Japan’s coach, the England job he now holds.

England 25 Wales 28 (London, 2015)

Gareth Davies scored a memorable try as Wales defeated the World Cup hosts at Twickenham. (Andrew Matthews/PA)

An unconvincing start to the World Cup by the hosts deteriorated into the nightmare scenario of a shock defeat to Wales. The tournament may have witnessed greater upsets, but when a 22-10 lead with half an hour to go began to dissolve amid a succession of penalties, Twickenham was in the grip of high drama. Gareth Davies’ late try was instrumental in possibly Wales’ greatest win on foreign soil that was secured despite a debilitating series of injuries.



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