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Top five greatest Rugby World Cup moments

Sports Mole delves through the archives to select five of the Rugby World Cup's greatest ever moments ahead of this year's latest instalment.

As the excitement continues to build ahead of this autumn's Rugby World Cup, Sports Mole picks out five of the showpiece competition's greatest moments.

5. Western Samoa stun Wales in Cardiff (1991)

This was one of the darkest days in Welsh rugby history, as a much-fancied Dragons side fell to a narrow defeat on their own patch. "Thank heavens Wales weren't playing the whole of Samoa," came the now-famous quip from the stands, in an attempt to make light of the situation that had just unfolded out on the field.

Wales, who had finished third in the previous World Cup, failed to even make it out of the group stage of the 1991 instalment after falling to this shock defeat against a Western Samoa side competing in the tournament for the very first time. To'o Vaega crossed over twice for the Southern Hemisphere outfit, while Sila Vaifale also piled on the misery to provide one of the sport's greatest-ever upsets.


4. France prevail in thrilling New Zealand semi-final (1999)

A case of the underdog coming out on top once more, in what is widely considered to be the finest World Cup match of all time. The All Blacks, as is often the case, headed into the tournament as favourites to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy. France clearly had not read the script, though, even after falling 24-10 behind.

Inspired by the kicking of Christophe Lamaison, France piled on 33 points in the remainder of the match to produce an astonishing turnaround. Two drop-goals and two penalties in quick succession by Lamaison, who did not miss a single kick all match, gave France realistic hope at Twickenham. The tries then followed to ensure that France, not New Zealand, would face Australia in the Cardiff final.


3. Lomu shines to crush English hearts (1995)

At the age of just 20, Jonah Lomu ran in four tries in a stellar display against England to help New Zealand through to the World Cup final. Just four minutes had elapsed before the youngster had crossed over for the first time, evading the challenge of Tony Underwood and Mike Catt to get the Kiwis up and running.

The pure pace and power on display left England with little chance, even if they did put in a spirited showing at times in Cape Town. As well as the brilliance of Lomu, this match is also remembered for Zinzan Brooke's effortless boot through the sticks from range to cap a memorable afternoon for the eventual beaten finalists.


2. Wilkinson wins it for England at the death (2003)

Forget the top five greatest Rugby World Cup moments, this must rank up their in terms of the finest sporting occasions of all time. It was very much fairytale stuff in Sydney, as Jonny Wilkinson's last-gasp effort separated England and Australia on the back of 100 pulsating minutes of action.

To be precise, 28 seconds remained on the clock when Wilkinson was handed the ball and delicately placed it between the sticks. It provided the most dramatic of conclusions to a fine contest, that had seen the sides locked at 17-17 at that exact moment. Millions watching on around the globe witnessed the Red Rose hold on for the remainder, becoming the first northern hemisphere team to win the world title in the process.


1. South Africa celebrate the dawn of a new era (1995)

Sometimes sport can do more to unite a country than any high-profile speech, political intervention or rally, as witnessed in 1995 when president Nelson Mandela, sporting the famous Springbok colours, handed the trophy over to skipper Francois Pienaar for one of the iconic images of post-apartheid South Africa.

So poignant was the occasion, which came on the back of a 15-12 victory over New Zealand, that a feature film was made to mark the event in 2009. Joel Stransky slotted over the winning drop-goal with his right boot, sparking scenes of joy for the 'rainbow nation' on their return to the sporting frame.


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George Ford (L) looks on with Owen Farrell during the England captain's run at Twickenham Stadium on November 21, 2014
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