Rugby Union

Matches that have made the World Cup so special

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With the World Cup fast approaching and the usual suspects preparing to lock horns once more, will this tournament bless us with at least one classic match and even the possibility of a major upset?

Since its inception in 1987, we have been lucky enough to witness such happenings each time the competition has come around.

Despite a fairly slow start, the first event gave us a double whammy when France played that pulsating semi-final against Australia to clinch it at the death in such dramatic fashion with a final, breath taking passage of play that saw Serge Blanco squeeze over in the left hand corner to send a minor shock through the rugby world.


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This was then followed by an even more closely fought finish when Wales also cruelly and brilliantly finished off the Australians with a final touchline conversion from the nerveless Paul Thorburn.

Fast forward four years and one of the biggest ever upsets occurred when co-hosts Wales were literally dumped out by the extremely physical Samoans.

England claimed a fantastic away win in a cauldron-like atmosphere in Paris against France and Australia proved that the New Zealanders were human despite only just coming through themselves in the previous round against a rampant Irish outfit.  All vintage stuff.

In 1995, a forgotten Rob Andrew drop-goal saw England succeed against the holders (Australia) and a certain man named Lomu bulldozed his way through to the final only to be upstaged it seemed by the tiny figure of Nelson Mandela and an entire South African nation.

Another classic match followed next time round when France put on a second half display that has probably never been bettered to overwhelm the mighty All Blacks at Twickenham.  Scintillating.

Drop goals also featured again. This time in the form of four in one game to see South Africa dispose of a shell-shocked England over in France.

Wales came to the party in 2003 with their astonishing match against New Zealand and the drama of the extra time final was nearly too much to bear.

England also surprised by defeating Australia in France 2007 and even went on to the final despite their terrible start.

Argentina proved that they could shock and entertain in equal measures by playing their way to a fantastic third place.

A staid tournament in 2011 was lit up by the fantastic men in green from Ireland when they beat the much fancied Australians in a match that was more attrition than anything else. One for the purists.

So, 2015. Who could shock and where is the potential classic?

Teams are now so professional and highly organised, it's difficult to see where this could come from.

On the upset front, Fiji could be well worth a look.  So much has been written and spoken of the 'big 3' in this group that they don't seem to get a mention. 

They are coming off the back of some impressive results and could well determine the outcome of this group.  They may well not go through themselves, but they are capable of defeating one of these teams (not sure which) and really throwing things in the melting pot.  Along with this potential upset could also come a classic match.

My real dark horse to shake things up are Scotland.  In Vern Cotter, they have a very shrewd man in charge and he knows what it takes to get the best out of his players.  A team to watch.  Maybe not in the group stages but in a one-off knockout game - who knows?

Will the favourites New Zealand live up to this tag? History says not. To agree is a brave call but the biggest shock of all could be them going out even before the final.

The beauty is no one knows. It is the pure joy of speculation and anticipation before the action begins. Bring it on...

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