Australia are famed for being one of the best sporting nations on the planet. However, for various reasons, rugby union is on the decline down under, and the effects of that have been greatly felt at the current World Cup in France.
The Wallabies’ struggles were well documented prior to the tournament, as they finished the recent Rugby Championship without a win. Eddie Jones’ side did manage to open their World Cup account with a routine 35-15 victory over Georgia, but defeats to Fiji and Wales left Australia all but eliminated in the pool stage for the first time in history.
Australia didn’t go to France as one of the favourites in the odds for Rugby World Cup, but few would have tipped a side of their magnitude to crash out this early. Hopefully, this isn’t a sign of things to come and the Wallabies can bounce back when they take on hosting duties in four years’ time.
There is some serious work to be done before then though. So, as we wait to see what the future holds for Australia in the rugby union sphere, let’s look at some of their greatest moments at the World Cup.
1991: Australia win the World Cup at Twickenham
Australia and England are two of the biggest sporting rivals in the world, and we could write a whole article about their enmity at the Rugby World Cup. They met in the pool stage in the inaugural tournament in 1987, with the Wallabies coming out top, and the two foes went head-to-head again in the 1991 final at Twickenham Stadium in London.
Australia finished fourth when they co-hosted the first Rugby World Cup alongside New Zealand in 1987, but they went all the way to lift the Webb Ellis Cup four years later. It was a low-scoring affair in the English capital and the hosts were never really in it, trailing Australia 9-0 at half-time before ultimately losing 12-6.
1999: Australia’s second World Cup success
After crashing out in the quarter-finals on the defence of their World Cup title in South Africa in 1995, losing 25-22 to England in the last eight, Australia regained the Webb Ellis Cup in 1999 — becoming the first-ever side to win the sought-after piece of silverware on two occasions.
The Wallabies edged out South Africa in extra-time at Twickenham to book their place in the final against France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. It was the first time France had reached the showpiece match, having won the bronze medal four years earlier, but Australia made light work of their European counterparts — winning 35-1 in the Welsh capital.
2003: Australia’s record win over Namibia
Mention the 2003 Rugby World Cup to an Australian, and they likely won’t want to talk about it. The tournament took place on home soil and the Wallabies were built up to win a third Webb Ellis Cup, going all the way to the final only for England to break their hearts thanks to a dramatic Jonny Wilkinson drop goal in the last 30 seconds of extra-time.
Their 142-0 win over Namibia in the pool stage is worth remembering, however, as it’s the biggest win in Rugby World Cup history. Australia racked up an incredible 22 tries against the Africans, with Chris Latham scoring five times. Lote Tuqiri and Matt Giteau scored three times each, while Mat Rogers crossed for two tries and kicked 16 conversions for an individual tally of 42 points.