1991 Home Nations

2010-10-25 20:45
Australia's David Campese and Nick Farr-Jones with the trophy. (AP)

The 1991 Rugby World Cup made its first foray into the northern hemisphere, bring jointly hosted by England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France; at that time, the five European countries that participated in the Five Nations Championship.

For the first time, participation was graded according to performances in the previous Cup - eight of those places were automatically filled by quarterfinalists from the 1987 World Cup and did not have to play any qualification matches – and 25 nations remaining competed in a qualification process designed to fill the remaining eight spots, bringing the total participation to 33 nations.

In the end, added to Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France and Fiji,  the following nations competed for the Cup: Zimbabwe, Italy, Romania, Canada, Argentina, America, Japan and Western Samoa.

The tournament progressed much as it did in 1987, with the giants of the game dominating all play. Reigning champions New Zealand had arrived with much hope and expectation of retaining their title, but it was not to be. The Wallabies arrived quietly and looked like winners throughout the tournament except for a brief 6 minutes at Lansdowne Road. Ireland almost had them beat but it wasn't to be. 

The star of their show was a man who would become famous not only for his incredible ability to score tries, but for his iconic “Goose Step” - that man was of course David Campese. With his flip passes over his shoulder and unique double step, there were times when even Australians despaired of him because he could do silly things that could cost matches. But when he was on song he could lay claim to the title of the greatest rugby player the world has known.

Champions: The World Cup Final was played at the Twickenham Stadium in London, and saw Australia triumph 12-6 against an England side that had suddenly abandoned their forward-based approach to play a running game. England had spent the entire tournament relying on their forwards and the boot of Rob Andrew. But bizarrely they threw that out of the window come the final, instead opting for a more open, running style in a bid to crack the Australians. It failed as the Wallabies took victory courtesy of a solitary converted try.

Tournament Star
Ireland's Ralph Keyes, who scored 68 points throughout the tournament.

Notable moments
The final didn't set the world alight, but was not without controversy. Facing a 12-3 deficit, England boasted a clear overlap but David Campese pounced to knock forward a pass to the open Rory Underwood. Referee Derek Bevan opted for a penalty despite arguments from the English camp for a penalty try. To this day, the argument drags on. England insist Underwood would have easily ran in for the score, while the Australians argue he would have been caught by their back-tracking defenders. Full-back Jonathan Webb slotted over the penalty but England's only clear-cut chance had gone. Campese, despite the infamous incident of the final, had proved to be one of the stars of the tournament as Australia went on to win as clearly the best side in the event. 


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