Thu. Jun 13th, 2024
Where do the New Zealand, South Africa and England teams of the past rank in your top 10 sides to appear at a Rugby World Cup?

Which team is the best ever to take to the field at a Rugby World Cup?

BBC rugby union correspondent Chris Jones has been debating that topic with two World Cup winners – Matt Dawson of England and Bryan Habana of South Africa.

Have a read through the contenders and then make your decision at the bottom of this page.

New Zealand 1987

The All Blacks won the first ever Rugby World Cup, which was hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Dawson: “New Zealand were a long way ahead of everybody else. My recollection is that the more recent tournaments are so much more competitive – you have to be better to win the World Cup.”

Australia 1991

England, one of five host nations, reached the final at Twickenham but lost 12-6 to Australia as the Wallabies lifted the trophy for the first time.

Jones: “David Campese at his best, and amazing performance in the semi-final against New Zealand. Tim Horan was from another planet, but England at home stuff their lines in a final.”

South Africa 1995

President Nelson Mandela presented the trophy to Springboks captain Francois Pienaar in an iconic moment as South Africa beat New Zealand to win their first World Cup on home soil.

Dawson: “I would not say South Africa in 1995 were an unbelievable side. But I loved the romance, power and the motivation behind it.”

New Zealand 1995

The only team in the list which did not go on to win the Rugby World Cup, New Zealand scored an impressive 315 points en route to the final, with Jonah Lomu announcing himself to the world.

Dawson: “Sean Fitzpatrick, Andrew Mehrtens, Josh Kronfeld, Zinzan Brooke, Frank Bunce and Walter Little. Just an incredible side, having arguably the greatest ever player who played the game in Jonah Lomu.”

Habana: “The aura of expectation in the professional era… everyone expected New Zealand to walk the World Cup.”

Australia 1999

Australia’s win against France in the 1999 final is the biggest in a Rugby World Cup showpiece, with 23 points separating the sides at the final whistle.

Jones: “I have got to argue hard that the 1999 Aussies have got to be up there. They were a world class team.”

England 2003

The only side from the northern hemisphere to win a Rugby World Cup, Jonny Wilkinson’s extra-time drop-goal sealed victory for England over hosts Australia.

Dawson: “We did not play a lot of good rugby, but we knew how to win. We were extremely intimidating because of the momentum we had over that four-year period culminating in 2003.”

South Africa 2007

An impressive eight tries from winger Habana helped South Africa to victory in 2007. Habana is tied with Lomu for the most tries at Rugby World Cups, both level on 15.

Dawson: “The South Africa 2007 team over their squad in 2019 – 100%.”

Habana: “The manner in which we had to go through that emotional journey- winning 36-0 against England in the pool stage. We had class and a [stellar] calibre of players.”

New Zealand 2011

After winning the first Rugby World Cup, it took 24 years for the All Blacks to regain the trophy. Richie McCaw led his side to a win at Eden Park, the same stadium in which New Zealand had won the inaugural tournament in 1987.

Habana: “There was a shakiness over whether they could win it, not like their team in 2015.”

New Zealand 2015

New Zealand created history in 2015 by becoming the first nation to win successive Rugby World Cups.

Dawson: “They were in form and they were ahead of the game in the way it needed to be played. It was fast, furious, controlled, confrontational and calculated.”

Habana: “We talk about names and combinations. In that 2015 team you have the highest scorer in Test match rugby (Dan Carter), the only person to captain his country in 100 Test matches (Richie McCaw), Sonny Bill Williams who was phenomenal and Julian Savea who scored eight tries in the tournament. If New Zealand had not won, then rugby would have been flipped upside down.”

South Africa 2019

South Africa lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time with their victory over England in Japan, matching the All Blacks’ record.

Habana: “If you lose a game at a World Cup but go on to win, which none of the other nine sides have done, how do we judge that as the best side? They peaked at the right time.”

Dawson: “They got absolutely piled on by their own fans for the way they were playing rugby. Until the final – they got it spot on.”

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