With the 2015 Rugby World Cup fast approaching, Last Word on Sports looks back at how the participating nations have fared in the previous seven tournaments from the inaugural in 1987 to the most recent in 2011. Today’s focus is Australia, who have appeared at each of the seven previous Rugby World Cups.
Rugby World Cup History: Australia
Australia were co-hosts of the inaugural Rugby World Cup and faced England, Japan and USA in Pool 1. The Wallabies got off to a good start winning their opening match against England 19-6. Comfortable wins against USA and Japan ensured that Australia advanced to the quarter finals as pool winners. Facing Pool 2 runners up Ireland, Australia dispatched the Irish 33-15 to move on to the semi finals. The Wallabies could not overcome France in the semi final as Les Bleus ran out 30-24 winners to move on to the Final. Australia faced Wales in the 3rd/4th place playoff but lost out by a single point in a close encounter that finished 24-23 to the Welsh.
Having reached the knockout stages in 1987, Australia qualified automatically for the 1991 tournament. Drawn in Pool 3 with Argentina, Wales and Western Samoa, Australia started with a win, defeating Argentina 32-19. Edging Western Samoa 9-3 in their second match the Wallabies then completed a clean sweep of the group with a comfortable 38-3 win over Wales. Australia survived a scare against Ireland in the quarter final as it took a late Michael Lynagh try to secure a 19-18 win. The Wallabies then defeated Bledisloe Cup rivals New Zealand to reach their first ever Rugby World Cup final. Facing hosts England in the final, a first half Tony Daley try was the difference with Michael Lynagh and Jonathan Webb exchanging two penalties a piece as the Wallabies lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy with a 12-6 victory.
Australia began their defence of their Rugby World Cup title facing Canada, Romania and hosts South Africa in Pool A. The Wallabies suffered an early setback as they lost to South Africa in their opening match with the Springboks running out 27-18 winners. Bouncing back in their second match the Wallabies defeated Canada 27-11. Australia secured passage to the quarter finals with a comfortable 42-3 win over Romania in their final pool match. Facing England in the quarter finals the two sides were deadlocked at 22-22 when a Rob Andrew drop goal from 45 meters broke Australian hearts and sent England through.
After being eliminated at the quarter final stage in 1995, Australia would have to qualify for the tournament for the first time in 1999. The Wallabies defeated Western Samoa, Tonga and Fiji to reach the finals where they would face Ireland, Romania and USA in Pool E. A comfortable 57-9 win over Romania got the Wallabies campaign off to a flying start. A 23-3 win over Ireland was followed up by a crushing 55-19 victory over USA, as Australia topped the pool. Australia faced hosts Wales in the quarter finals and advanced after a 24-9 victory. A tight semi final against South Africa went to extra time, with the Wallabies eventually toppling the defending champion Springboks 27-21. Facing France in the final in Cardiff, the Australians secured their second Rugby World Cup title defeating Les Bleus 35-12.
Australia entered the 2003 Rugby World Cup as both hosts and holders, facing Argentina, Ireland Namibia and Romania in Pool A. Up against Argentina in their opening match, the Wallabies dispatched the Pumas 24-8. Australia then defeated Romania 90-8 before beating Namibia by a record margin in a Rugby World Cup match, 142-0. Australia secured top spot as they edged out Ireland by a single point in their final pool match. The quarter finals pitted Australia against Scotland, with the Wallabies advancing with a 33-16 win. Rivals New Zealand awaited Australia in the semi finals, and Australia defeated the All Blacks 22-10 to reach the World Cup final for the second successive tournament. Facing off against England in a repeat of the 1991 final, Australia took an early lead through a Lote Tuqiri try. England then moved ahead through the boot of Johnny Wilkinson and a try from Jason Robinson. Elton Flatley kicked Australia back into the game, tying it up at 14-14 to take the game to extra time. Wilkinson and Flatley exchanged penalties before Wilkinson hit a drop goal to win England the Rugby World Cup.
At the 2007 Rugby World Cup, in France, Australia faced Canada, Fiji, Japan and Wales in Pool B, and got off to the perfect start defeating Japan 91-3. A 32-20 win over Wales in their second match gave the Wallabies a commanding position in the pool, which was further cemented by a 55-12 win over Fiji. A 37-6 win over Canada in their final pool match secured top spot for Australia and passage to the quarter finals. Australia’s World Cup came to an end the same way the previous one had, by the boot of Johnny Wilkinson as he kicked four penalties to give England a 12-10 win over the Wallabies.
The 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand saw Australia face Ireland, Italy, Russia and USA in Pool C. A 32-6 win over Italy gave Australia a great start to their campaign. However they suffered a setback in their second game as they were beaten 15-6 by Ireland. The Wallabies bounced back with a 67-5 over USA, and secured their place in the quarter finals with a 68-22 win over Russia. Facing Pool D winners South Africa, Australia edged a close game as James O’Connor hit a late penalty to give the Wallabies an 11-9 win. Hosts New Zealand were Australia’s opponents in the semi finals, however the All Blacks proved too strong as the Wallabies were defeated 20-6. Australia gained some consolation in the 3rd/4th place playoff as they beat Wales 21-18.
Australia are one of the most successful teams in World Cup history and will not be a team to be taken lightly in 2015. The Wallabies will be looking to become the first team to win the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time and will be looking to get one over on rivals England, to whom they have lost their last three Rugby World Cup matches, when they face off in the pool stages. Having just won the Rugby Championship, Australia will be entering the tournament full of confidence and unafraid of anyone.
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