- Associated Press - Friday, September 11, 2015

In seven World Cup tournaments, four countries have claimed the title - New Zealand, Australia, South Africa (twice each) and England. Here’s a look at the previous editions of rugby’s signature event, held every four years:



Final: New Zealand 29, France 9

The New Zealand All Blacks were favorites to win the inaugural World Cup, as they have been at every tournament since. In the first instance, they delivered.

New Zealand’s victory in the final in Auckland came after France had an upset 30-24 win over Australia in Sydney in the semifinals, and the Kiwis overwhelmed Wales 49-6 in Brisbane.

The big win over tournament co-host Australia seemed to take the sting out of the French, and New Zealand dominated the final. New Zealand flyhalf Grant Fox accumulated 17 points while Michael Jones, stand-in captain David Kirk and John Kirwan scored tries.

Rugby was still an amateur game, and New Zealand fullback John Gallagher reportedly was back on his policeman’s beat the next morning.



Final: Australia 12, England 6

The first of Australia’s two World Cup titles - both won in Britain.

The Australians were relieved just to make the final, saying they had nothing to lose after a 19-18 quarterfinal win over Ireland in Dublin that rates among the all-time classic rugby matches.

England beat Scotland 9-6 in the semifinals and Australia defeated New Zealand 16-6. In the final, England changed tactics, abandoning its preference for 10-man rugby dominated by forward play and Rob Andrew’s kicking, in a bid to beat the Wallabies at their own game - running rugby. It backfired.

Prop Tony Daly scored the only try for Australia in the final, but the one most often talked about is the one that England didn’t score. Down 12-3, England had an overlap but outnumbered Australian winger David Campese deliberately knocked forward - rather than attempt to cleanly intercept - a pass that had been destined for an unmarked Rory Underwood.



Final: South Africa 15, New Zealand 12

This edition was all about South Africa.

Playing in the tournament for the first time following the end of apartheid, the Springboks emerged victorious at Ellis Park in Johannesburg before 63,000 fans. Among the spectators was Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president who spent 27 years in prison for his fight against apartheid rule.

Joel Stransky provided all of South Africa’s points, including his dropped goal in extra time that sealed the win.

Following the win, Mandela, wearing a cap and a Springboks jersey that was once considered symbolic of the apartheid regime, presented the Webb Ellis Trophy to South Africa captain Francois Pienaar.

There were a number of conspiracy theories surrounding New Zealand’s unexpected loss - food poisoning; that a mysterious waitress known as Suzie; that listening devices were installed at New Zealand’s team hotel.

A star was born in this tournament in giant All Blacks winger Jonah Lomu.



Final: Australia 35, France 12

The first World Cup to be held in the professional era of rugby union, and Australia picked up its second title with victory over France at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Jonah Lomu scored eight tries in the tournament for New Zealand, but the All Blacks capitulated in the semifinals in a 43-31 loss to France, despite Lomu’s two tries and a big early lead.

Australia beat South Africa 27-21 in the semifinals, with Stephen Larkham’s wobbly late dropped goal helping give the Wallabies a buffer. Ben Tune and Owen Finegan scored Australia’s tries and Matthew Burke kicked seven penalties and two conversions for 25 points in the lopsided decider.

Skipper John Eales said Australia took advantage of its situation in both World Cup victories: “In both cases, we were teams on the rise.”



Final: England 20, Australia 17

Flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal with just 26 seconds left in extra time gave England the win, made him a megastar in the sport, and earned coach Clive Woodward a knighthood. It was the first - and still only - Rugby World Cup won by a northern hemisphere team.

The event was hosted solely by Australia, after New Zealand relinquished the games it was scheduled to host due to a contractual dispute over ground signage.

England was in superb form leading into the tournament and considered a hot favorite for the title, but had a difficult time against an unconventional Australian lineup which grew in confidence throughout the tournament.

Wilkinson kicked four penalties before his dropped goal at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium sparked mass celebrations on the other side of the world.



Final: South Africa 15, England 6

Cup organizers said the tournament in France was their most successful in terms of broadcast coverage and overall attendance. England had upset Australia 12-10 in the quarterfinals and again Jonny Wilkinson was the star, kicking all of England’s points. England then beat hosts France 14-9 while South Africa beat Argentina 37-13.

France had delighted its home crowd by beating New Zealand 20-18 in the quarterfinals on a shocking day in which both Australia and the All Blacks were eliminated in the space of six hours.

South Africa had defeated England 36-0 in pool play and was the only undefeated team in the competition. The final was tryless, with four penalties by fullback Percy Montgomery and one by center Francois Steyn providing the Springboks with their points. Wilkinson kicked a pair of penalties.



New Zealand 8, France 7

Elation mixed with relief among New Zealanders as the All Blacks ended 24 years of stumbles and disappointments by standing up to immense pressure in the final.

It was closer than most predicted, with the French having lost two group games amid a player revolt. A drab final was ultimately decided by a penalty from Stephen Donald, a late and unlikely replacement for injured star flyhalf Dan Carter.

England’s campaign was an embarrassment, both on and off the field. Mike Tindall’s drunken night out in Queenstown attracted more headlines than his on-field displays and coach Martin Johnson quit amid the recriminations that followed a quarterfinal loss to France.

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