Rugby World Cup 2023 – The greatest exploits in the history of the World Cup

Fiji’s victory against Australia, a major nation, inevitably brings back memories of exploits that only the World Cup can offer us. A quick overview of these biggest surprises as part of the premier competition.

Fiji against all odds: Fiji 28-9 Argentina in 1987

The context concerning them could not be heavier. A military coup takes place in the archipelago barely a week before the start of the first Rugby World Cup. Their participation is compromised, called into doubt, but the Fijians make the trip to New Zealand. Their marathon of three matches in seven days started on the right end: victory against Argentina 28 to 9. Those that no one expected ended up qualifying thanks to their points difference, and despite two defeats against the hosts and Italy.

“The miracle of Brighton”: South Africa 32-34 Japan in 2015

Thunderclap at the start of the English World Cup! The Springboks were surprised from the start by the Brave Blossoms, for this first match in Pool B. The Japanese showed unfailing resilience, systematically coming back to score.

Ayumu Goromaru, passed by Toulon, during the Japanese victory against South Africa

Ayumu Goromaru, passed by Toulon, during the Japanese victory against South Africa
Spi / Icon Sport

The resounding finale will see Karne Hesketh flatten in a corner in the 80th. The euphoria will be long for the Japanese.

The disappointment of the future finalists: France 14-19 Tonga in 2011

However, they were warned, the partners of Thierry Dusautoir. Their opponents from the volcanic islands of Tonga were starting to show up in the European championships, and their selection was logically moving up the ranks. But the XV of France still fell into the Tongan trap, whose recipe was to slow down all outings, and hit hard on impacts. Marc Lièvremont’s men will miraculously emerge from this group thanks to the offensive bonuses, but with two defeats. To this day, it is the only time this has happened in the history of the World Cup.

The Canadians at the end of the suspense: Tonga 20-25 Canada in 2011

This group A was definitely one of all the surprises. Behind the all-powerful All Blacks, who would be crowned at home a month later, the battle raged between the contenders for second qualifying place. Before causing problems for the French XV, Canada stood out by beating Tonga, presented however as a nation growing in power, sublimated by individuals playing in the major championships. This is the first Canadian victory in a World Cup in eight years.

The Japanese overthrow the world leader: Japan 19-12 Ireland in 2019

Carried by their public, the Japanese have toppled mountains. Scotland, obviously, at the end of this group A, but above all the first nation in the world in Shizuoka. Japan, despite a good start to the Irish match, marked by tries from Ringrose and Kearney, did not panic and played their part little by little, to take the lead on the hour mark thanks to Fukuoka. The rest will just be management and destruction of the (already) well-oiled machine of the XV du Trèfle.

The Japanese burst into joy after their exploit against Ireland

The Japanese burst into joy after their exploit against Ireland
PA Images / Icon Sport – PA Images / Icon Sport

First qualification for an Asian country in the quarter-finals, first selection from Tier 2 to dominate its group and win all its matches, first to beat two Tier 1 countries in the same competition…

The blue wave: New Zealand 31-43 France in 1999

Beyond the feat of a victory against the All Blacks, and moreover against the generation of Jonah Lomu (he scored a double that evening), promised to the title, the Blues entered on October 31, 1999 in the history of French sport overall. Trailing by fourteen points shortly after the break, the Blues led by the Pierre Villepreux-Jean-Claude Skrela tandem produced a sensational second act, scoring a 33-0. At the heart of this extraordinary performance, a Christophe Lamaison of the big evenings, who scores a “full house” (28 points), and offers a pass for a test of the parking lot that Philippe Bernat-Salles scores. After that, Twickenham will never have the same flavor again, for the XV of France.

The magical night of Cardiff: New Zealand 18-20 France in 2007

This is where the Blues took on the costume of “black beast of the Blacks”. Beaten by the Pumas in the opener (12-17), they must play the quarter-final in Cardiff, while the vast majority of the competition takes place in France. Driven by a rare will, the partners of Thierry Dusautoir and Yannick Jauzion, both scorers, will shake up the New Zealanders of McCaw, Carter and Rokocoko. The defeat in the following round against England will not diminish the significance of this achievement.

Yannick Jauzion, center try scorer against Dan Carter's All Blacks, during the 2007 edition

Yannick Jauzion, center try scorer against Dan Carter’s All Blacks, during the 2007 edition
Sbi / Icon Sport

The Samoan revelation in the face of Welsh decline: Samoa 16-13 Wales in 1991

This was in some ways the marker of Welsh decline. Which revealed the decline in Leek’s form in the years that followed. Wales found themselves, a bit like the Fijians’ opponents four years earlier, facing the unknown of a Pacific nation. Unlike their Fijian and Tongan neighbors, Manu Samoa were not invited to the first World Cup. This 1991 edition was therefore an opportunity for them to reveal themselves to the world. And the copy returned was enough to make the already established nations blush. “As soon as the kick-off was given, the men of the Pacific lived up to their reputation as heavy tacklersexplained Ieuan Evans, Welsh captain aged 27 at the time. Every time our running backs Robert Jones and Mark Ring tried to make plays, they were immediately under pressure from the Samoans.”

One of the worst Irish memories: Argentina 28-24 Ireland in 1999

At each World Cup, despite Ireland’s leading position in the World Rugby rankings, we often recall that the Clover XV has never progressed beyond the quarter-final stage. But in the history of Irish rugby, one of the most painful memories is the elimination in the play-offs of the 1999 World Cup.

The disappointment of the Irish after the play-off lost against Argentina

The disappointment of the Irish after the play-off lost against Argentina
Sportsfile / Icon Sport

Because this match located between the group stage and the real final phase is considered by the local press as a “no man’s land”. Because this World Cup was that of the progressive emancipation of Ireland, which co-organized the event. And because feeling the atmosphere following this defeat in Lens, we understood that the Irish camp was devastated.

On the Pumas side, this success will be the foundations of a new era full of success, marked by third place eight years later in France.

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