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Sports / Rugby

The biggest upsets in Rugby World Cup

Posted 31 Jul 2023

The 2023 Rugby World Cup is just weeks away, and with it comes the excitement of seeing the best teams from around the world battle it out for the title. But before we look ahead at what’s to come, let's look back at some of the biggest upsets in the tournament's history:

Wales vs Samoa (1999)

One of the biggest upsets of the Rugby World Cups was the Wales vs Samoa pool stage match in 1999. Wales were feeling confident about their match against Samoa. However, it seems they were blindsided -- Samoa shocked the rugby world by defeating Wales 16-13, making it the first time a Pacific Island nation had ever beaten a major rugby nation in a World Cup match. The match exhibited the unpredictable nature of sport and how you just cannot underestimate the other team - no matter their current standing.

France vs New Zealand (2017)

Another match that experienced a stunning turn of events was the quarter finals between the great All Blacks and France. New Zealand, having won three World Cups already felt quite confident going into the match against a side who never won the tournament.

New Zealand led 13-3 by halftime but upon return France played with sheer determination, and their dominance could be seen, especially due to Dan Carter’s exceptional performance. France staged a remarkable comeback and shocked the rugby world by securing a 20-18 victory over the clear favourites. 

Japan vs South Africa (2015)

Another one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history includes the encounter between two-time World Champions, South Africa, and Japan in 2015. South Africa were the favourites however Japan pulled off a last-minute winner to the left corner, scored by Karne Hesketh making the score 34-32. The impossible and unpredictable had happened in this pool match, the stadium exploded in celebration and Japan knew from that day that they could do better and are capable of defeating top-tier teams. Once again, a team had won against all odds and shocked the entire Rugby World. 

Fiji vs Uruguay (2019)

Uruguay's triumph over Fiji in the 2019 Rugby World Cup was a true fairytale in the world of sports. The Uruguayan team was an underdog at the time, with minimal resources to practice with and comprised 8 amateur players in the world of professional players. Whereas their opponents for the day were Fiji, a dedicated rugby nation known for their physicality and flair. Fiji had also recently come from defeating Australia which added to the danger element for Uruguay.

Little did Fiji know what was going to happen next. They totally underestimated Uruguay and didn’t make an appropriate game plan. As soon as the whistle blew to start the game, Uruguay went all in, they showcased incredible fighting spirit and took full advantage of Fiji’s weaknesses, Uruguay secured a historic 30-27 win over Fiji, making it their first win in 16 years in a World Cup.

Japan vs Ireland (2019) 

The second time Japan left the world in awe was due to a stunning victory over Ireland in the Rugby World Cup 2019 pool match. Ireland was ranked the number 1 team at the time and gave an impression of a dominant team. 

For the match, Japan had different plans. They put in a collective effort with every player performing the best they could. Japan was able to defeat Ireland for the first time in the Rugby World Cup. The Irish was left in disbelief and the world could see the progress Japan had made over the years. Once again it proved the immense talent the Japan players had.

These are without a doubt the biggest upsets in Rugby World Cup history. It just goes to show it’s a tournament that can be full of surprises and upsets. Anything is possible and absolutely no team should be underestimated.

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