The Rugby World Cup is just around the corner and we’re all looking forward to seeing the best players strutting their stuff on the grandest stage.
Will New Zealand make it an unprecedented three World Cup triumphs in a row, can fallen southern hemisphere giants South Africa and Australia make an impact, or is there a chance of England repeating their 2003 heroics, or even Ireland and Wales staking a claim to becoming just the second winner from the northern hemisphere?
There’s been some terrific tries over the previous eight editions – 1,962 scored overall in fact – from a plethora of the game’s greats.
But which live longest in the memory? Without further ado, we maul over our best ever World Cup tries from 1-10.
1 ALAN CHARRON, Canada v Romania 1995
One of the greatest things about this try is it’s the best scored (well, our pick) on rugby’s greatest stage – and no-one outside of his home country has probably heard of the scorer, Charron.
He was, however, Canada’s third inductee into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2017 – and we think he should be awarded that just on the basis of this score.
A clearance from Romania full-back Gheorghe Solomie was brilliantly picked off his boot straps by opposite number Scott Stewart.
A brilliant interchange between Dave Lougheed and Christian Stewart found Winston Stanley who popped inside to the onrushing flanker to surge over from the 22 for a quite brilliant score. It’s just a shame there were only 8,000 spectators inside Port Elizabeth’s Boet Erasmus Stadium to see it.
2 TAKUDZWA NGWENYA, USA v South Africa 2007
The first – and perhaps only – thing you need to know about this effort, is that Ngwenya made Bryan Habana look like a nursing home resident who’d just had a hip replacement as he breezed past him in a 2007 pool encounter.
The move started from the US’ own 22 and when Ngwenya received possession 50 yards out he had Habana ahead of him. He shaped to go inside before turning on the jets and burning arguably the greatest winger that’s ever played the game on the outside to score.
The Springboks sauntered to a comfortable 64-15 triumph, but the previously unheralded Ngwenya, 21 and uncapped before the tournament, made his mark.
The Zimbabwe-born speedster wasn’t even with a senior team before the World Cup, but moved to French giants Biarritz after.
3 STEPHEN JONES, Wales v England 2003
A sublime free-flowing move started and supplied by the twinkle-toed Shane Williams – in an ultimately jarring 28-17 quarter-final defeat to fierce old foes England in Brisbane.
Fielding a deep kick in his own 22, Williams shimmied past two would-be tacklers before sending scrum-half Gareth Cooper on his way.
Cooper handed off to Gareth Thomas who had Williams in support, but an ankle tap on Thomas saw the diminutive flyer forced to juggle the ball from a poor pass. He still managed to gather and fire a bullet pass inside to the supporting Jones, who had a simple task of dropping over the line.
4 JOHN KIRWAN, New Zealand v Italy 1987
Possibly the best solo try ever scored was also the first to ever be scored at a World Cup, setting an almost impossible standard. New Zealand winger John Kirwan was the third player to touch the ball from Italy’s kick-off, embarking on a dazzling run from the shadow of his own posts.
The blond-haired bomber beat almost the entire Azzurri team and was over the line within a matter of seconds, with barely a hand laid on him – one of two tries for him in a 70-6 victory that set the joint hosts on their way to lifting the inaugural Webb Ellis Trophy.
5 KOSUKE ENDO, Japan v Wales 2007
Kirwan, by now Japan coach, knew a thing or two about scoring excellent tries, especially at the World Cup, and he would have marvelled at this effort from his Brave Blossoms against Wales in Cardiff.
Much like his mazy effort against the Azzurri 20 years earlier (see above) this breathtaking length of the field effort lives long in the memory.
It began five metres from their own line with Japan stealing possession and launching a rapid counter-attack. Some lovely quick hands and a great take from Yuta Imamura put Endo in out wide and he was even too quick for speedy Shane Williams as he went over in the corner.
6 FEDERICO ARAMBURU, Argentina v France 2007
The Pumas were one of the success stories of the tournament – capped by this win to take third place from the formidable French, the host nation.
They’d only once previously gone beyond the group stage but sealed their best finish courtesy of this fine try. Full-back Ignacio Corleto collected Aurelien Rougerie’s chip and went on a mazy run into Les Bleus territory.
They kept the move alive when he ran into trouble, the key moment was Juan Martin Hernandez’s beautifully weighted hurled pass into the hands of Rimas Alvarez who then fed Aramburu to cut in and cross the whitewash.
Argentina – who’d beaten the French in the opening game of the tournament – strolled to a comfortable 34-10 victory that set the platform for the rising force they’ve become today.
7 GETHIN JENKINS, Wales v Namibia 2011
Who doesn’t love a big man getting in on the act? And, despite his physical presence and position as a prop, Jenkins made a name for himself throughout his decorated career – with 129 he has 14 more caps than any other Welshman – as a a mobile and agile ball carrier.
His tries (four) tended to come on the big stage – this one following his try in the 2005 Six Nations Grand Slam-clinching game against Ireland.
In the 81-7 pool annihilation of Namibia, Jenkins scored a try any of his illustrious backs colleagues – Lee Byrne, Leigh Halfpenny or Jonathan Davies – would have been proud of. Jenkins sidestepped one opponent outside the 22, threw a brilliant show and go to another before bursting into space past two more and charging over the line despite the attention of three players trying to bring him to ground.
8 CHRISTOPHE LAMAISON, France v New Zealand 1999
A prime example of France’s unpredictable and bizarre tendency to switch from the brilliant to the bad came in their 1999 semi-final victory over the All Blacks.
Les Bleus outscored the Kiwis four tries to three in this blistering 43-31 victory, although they would go on to lose to Australia in the final, their second of three runners-up finishes.
Christophe Domenici tore the All Blacks apart as he left three tacklers for dead in a stunning run from halfway that deserved a try but took him to within a metre from the line. France recycled and a reverse pass found Lamaison who strolled over.
9 SERGE BLANCO, France v Australia 1987
An ugly, beautiful try that is among the most famous in World Cup history. This classic encounter in Sydney at the very first World Cup is also one of the greatest games in the tournament’s history, one capped by full-back Blanco’s manic, thrilling late score that put Les Bleus into the final.
France flowed forward but the ball was dropped and could have been intercepted or cleared on multiple occasions as play switched from the right to left touchline.
Eventually the ball was put in Blanco’s hands by Laurent Rodriguez and he dived over in the corner for a 30-24 win. France lost 29-9 to the All Blacks in the showpiece.
10 VILIMONI DELASAU, Fiji v Wales 2007
Another memorable moment from the 2007 tournament and yet one to forget for Wales.
Not only were Gareth Jenkins’ Dragons burnt by this superb try, but by the result too – with Fiji’s dramatic late 38-34 win sending them through to the knockouts, and their joint best ever finish of reaching the quarter-finals, while Wales went home.
In a dramatic game that see-sawed throughout Graham Dewes scored the seismic try three minutes from the end, but it was Delasau’s that had earlier caught the eye.
Winning a scrum in their own half Fiji moved the ball through the backs, Delasau pouncing on a handling error from Wales to gather out wide. He chipped over full-back Gareth Thomas and then enjoyed the benefit of the bounce, which eluded Mark Jones and landed in his grateful gasp, touching down for a memorable score.
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Ken Owens hopes to make a World Cup impact at last as Wales seek to show just why they are one of the tournament favourites in Japan this autumn.
Owens, Wales’ most capped hooker with 64 appearances, has incredibly never started a World Cup match, with his game-time in rugby’s biggest competition restricted to roles from the bench.
The 2017 British & Irish Lion was Wales’ third-choice hooker at the 2011 World Cup when he made his international debut, and four years later the Scarlets star provided back-up to Scott Baldwin.
“Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to go to this World Cup and get a start,” said 32-year-old Owens.
“Going into 2011 I’d come off a serious injury and because a couple of other boys had injuries too I made the squad – and I was chuffed to get my first cap at that World Cup.
“In 2015 it was pretty much the same. I’d had about eight or nine months out with my neck again.
“Scott had a great tournament and my role was to bring an impact off the bench, which I enjoyed. You make your own luck and player’s roles change in different squads.
“Hopefully I can stay fit and prove myself to the squad. It would be huge to make a third World Cup.”
Wales headed to Switzerland this week for a fortnight of punishing high-altitude training in the Swiss Alps.
The idea of the training camp is that the players’ bodies become more accustomed to recovering when there is less oxygen available, making their bodies more efficient at using it when it is more present in Japan.
“It’s not pleasant, but we know why we’re doing it and what the purpose of it is, especially if you’ve been through it before,” Owens said.
“You can see the results it gives you and the places you can get to in those big matches.
“The first thing you can turn to is your fitness, you can back yourself to dig in and go the distance when it’s tough.
“It’s worked over the last two World Cup cycles and going into the third it’s massively important.”
Wales head towards Japan as the form team in international rugby and only behind New Zealand in the world rankings.
They secured the Six Nations Grand Slam with a 14th successive win in March, and Warren Gatland’s side have not tasted defeat since losing to Ireland in February 2018.
Australia – whom they beat in November to end a 13-game losing streak against the Wallabies – will provide their biggest group test at the World Cup, with the pool also including Fiji, Georgia and Uruguay.
“To get that result against Australia was a monkey off the back and does give us confidence,” Owens said.
“You saw when we beat South Africa and got that one win, we’ve had pretty good results against them since then.
“But the challenge will be there in every game. Fiji have won in France and, you see this at every World Cup, that when the South Sea Island sides get an extended period of time together they’re very dangerous.
“You can’t write off Georgia either. They’ve got some strength and weapons, and Uruguay are not just going to turn up and roll over to give us the points.
“We can’t just say ‘all we need to do is beat Australia’ because we might end up losing the other games.”
With the Rugby World Cup just 11 weeks away, we take a closer look at each of the competing nations. After profiling eight lower-ranked teams and Japan in recent weeks, we continues our series this week with France.
It’s more than 10 years since Les Bleus lit up Six Nations weekends with their quick hands and smoking footwork, that flamboyant French flare a far cry from the laissez-faire attitude of the present day.
And, while the TOP14 club sides continue to attract some of the world’s elite stars, the international team remains in a state of disarray.
They remain one of sports biggest enigmas, especially with the immense talent they have in their squad.
As a result of this, it’s difficult to know what to expect when Jacques Brunel’s team step out against Argentina in their opening World Cup match on September 21.
In a group that contains England, Tonga, United States and the Pumas, they have an outside chance of making a quarter-final if they decide to compete for the full 80 minutes. In saying that, however, an improving Argentina side should prove too strong and England are likely to stick 30 points on them.
France’s form is too inconsistent to make bold predictions, and since the 2015 World Cup, they have recorded just 11 wins and one draw in 37 matches. The 2018 season was one of their worst in history with two victories from 11 fixtures, including a disastrous home defeat to Fiji.
In 2019, they registered wins against Italy (25-14) and Scotland (27-10) – although the Scots made them look competent in Paris, lacking composure and detail in attack and defence.
France’s kick defence was comical for large spells of the Six Nations campaign, and their general discipline was a disgrace, conceding a bucket load of penalties over the five games.
Discipline is key in professional rugby and Les Bleus need to tighten up in this area if they are to have any chance of positive showing at rugby’s global showpiece.
To underline their inconsistencies, they led Six Nations champions Wales for 70 minutes before a moment of madness from lock Sebastien Vahaamahina allowed Wales to race in for a late try and go on to secure the win.
This is one of the many examples of their failures in recent times. They can secure possession and make some yards, but just aren’t streetwise in their tactics and nearly go off and do their own thing.
If they stayed organised, the score-line against opposition could look more attractive and they might making more games a genuine contest.
It’s a shame the general structure in French rugby is shocking considering how well the sport is run in Ireland, England, France, Wales and Scotland.
The French Rugby Federation are doing no favours and need to change their ways fast, especially with a talented crop of U-20 players coming through who have just secured back-to-back Junior World Cup titles (2018 and 2019).
Basic skills are below par and the fitness is poor and this is something that cannot just be improved on overnight, given the lack of quality time Brunel and his coaching staff have with the squad at the end of a gruelling domestic season.
If there are any positives to draw from the spring campaign it was the emergence of rising stars like Antoine Dupont, Damian Penaud, Thomas Ramos and Romain Ntamack; four players who could potentially be the backbone of a star-studded team in future years.
All four are included in Brunel’s 31-man squad for rugby’s global showpiece, but surprisingly, it does not feature seasoned campaigners Morgan Parra or Mathieu Bastareaud, who was vice-captain of his squad during the Six Nations.
Brunel also included three uncapped players in his squad in winger Alivereti Raka, hooker Peato Mauvaka and prop Emerick Setiano, but there was no space for star winger Teddy Thomas or prop Uini Atonio.
Some notable omissions. But Brunel needs to inspire a team lacking confidence and motivation, especially with a World Cup just weeks away.
It is unlikely we will see the return of any French magic at this edition of the tournament, but with some stunning U-20 players coming through, the talent is certainly there for the Federation to nurture in future years.
Nickname(s): Les Bleus
Head coach: Jacques Brunel
Captain: Guilhem Guirado
Most caps: Fabien Pelous (118)
Top scorer: Frederic Michalak (436)
Top try scorer: Serge Blanco (38)
Home stadium: Stade de France, Paris
Key player: Antoine Dupont. The Toulouse scrum-half was one of the few shining lights in another disappointing Six Nations campaign for France. The 22-year-old has the running, passing and kicking game for Les Bleus to build a game around for the next decade. He is destined to a star at this year’s World Cup.
Best result: Runners-up (1987, 1999 and 2011)
Fixtures: Argentina (September 21), United States (October 2), Tonga (October 6), England (October 12)
DID YOU KNOW?
France have appeared in the semi-finals at every tournament except for 1991 and 2015 where they were knocked out in the quarter-final stage.