1999 Wales

2010-10-25 20:49
Australia holds aloft their country's second World Cup trophy. (AP)

The 1999 Rugby Union World Cup was the first to be held in rugby union's professional era. The principal host nation was Wales, although the majority of matches were played outside the country, shared between England, France, Scotland and Ireland.

As the opening ceremony, first match and the Final would take place in Cardiff, the Welsh team  were awarded the automatic qualification berth afforded the hosts. Only four automatic qualification places were available for the 1999 tournament; the other three went to the top three teams from the previous World Cup in 1995; champions (South Africa), runners-up (New Zealand), and third-place play-off winners (France).

The tournament was expanded to 20 teams (from 16), divided into five groups of four teams, a scenario that necessitated a quarter-final play-off round involving the five runners-up and best third-placed team to decide who would join the pool winners in the last eight. Qualification for the final 16 places took place between 63 other nations. The 1999 tournament saw the introduction of a repechage, effectively a second chance for teams that had finished runners-up in each qualifying zone. Uruguay and Tonga were the first nations to profit from the repechage, and took their places alongside fellow qualifiers Australia, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, Argentina, Fiji, Romania, Canada, Namibia, Japan, Spain and the United States.

The tournament proceeded much like those before it, with the major nations making it through to the quarter-final stages, in which South Africa defeated England, Australia (the eventual champions) defeated hosts Wales, the All Blacks triumphed over Scotland and France defeated Argentina. The semi-finals were much tougher, with reigning champions South Africa beaten 27-21 by Australia, in a tight match, and the French seeing off the All Blacks by 43-31 in a major upset.

Champions: The final, between Australia, arguably the best side in world rugby at the time and the Five Nations Wooden Spoon 'winners' France, was another tough affair and the French must have felt buoyed by their semi-final win over the All Blacks, and that they could repeat the performance. But it was not to be, the Australians would prevail, scoring the only two tries of the match and defeating the French by 35-12 to take the title for an unprecedented second time.

Tournament Star
All Black giant in his last World Cup, Jonah Lomu, who scored 8 tries in the tournament.

Notable moments
France's 43 - 31 victory over New Zealand in the semi-finals of the 1999 World Cup tournament has been described as the greatest game of rugby ever played and the most colossal upset in the history of sport. It was their perseverance, strength up front, and a return to form of the flair French back line that overcome the mighty All Blacks, as well as the rhinoceros-like stampedes of Jonah Lomu, who scored two tries in the match that produced a result that no-one had seen coming.

Another notable moment came from the boot of Jannie De Beer, South Africa's flyhalf, who, in the quarter-final match against England, slotted an unprecedented 5 drop goals, helping his team to a 44-21 win.


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