The 5 most memorable games of the Rugby World Cup 6 years ago

The 5 most memorable games of the Rugby World Cup

This year's Rugby World Cup will go down as possibly the greatest in the history of the tournament.

After the kick-fest of 2007 and the embarrassment to the sport that was 2011, the World Cup finally got its groove back and put together one of the most memorable sporting events of the last decade.

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Before we look ahead to Japan in 2019, it's worth taking some time to look back at some of the games that will live long in the memory after a month and a half of non-stop rugby.

Japan stun the Springboks

We were given our first clue that this was going to be a great tournament on just the second day when lowly Japan took down the mighty Springboks. That alone would have been memorable, but the manner in which they did it means it will become the stuff of World Cup legend.

Make no mistake, this was no smash-and-grab win. Japan played some of the most exciting rugby at the tournament on their way to a 34-32 win over South Africa. Their Tasmanian coach Eddie Jones deserves all the praise in the world for the organisation his team showed.

If not for scheduling issues that meant they had to play Scotland just four days later, the 2019 hosts could have made a run to the knockout stages for the first time in their history. As things went, they ended up becoming the first team to ever win three of their pool games but fail to qualify for the quarter-finals.

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England humbled

In spite of everything else that happened, English fans will always remember this World Cup as the one in which the hosts failed to get out of their group for the first time ever.

Although they were given the toughest group in the history of the tournament, the decision to kick to the corner instead of take their points and tie up the game against Wales will haunt these players for the rest of their careers.

It is a little bit unfair to pinpoint such a moment - especially after heaping praise on Japan for turning down the posts in favour of a scrum against South Africa which won them the game.

But for England, it was clearly the wrong decision. Whereas the entire Japanese team had a clear plan of what they wanted to do, England were totally lost. They barely put up a fight against Australia and were out after just three games.

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New Zealand slaughter France

New Zealand had not really gotten going during the pool stages. A slow start against Argentina in their first game and underwhelming performance in the rest of their group games saw many questioning their readiness for knockout rugby.

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Being drawn against France in a quarter-final in Cardiff left pundits climbing over each other to bring up that infamous game in 2007 where Freddie Michalak inspired the French to a 20-18 victory against a supposedly unstoppable New Zealand team.

This year's version of the fixture was surprising in a different way, as the All Blacks absolutely demolished a poor French side 62-12, handing Les Bleus the heaviest defeat in their history. No moment summed it up better than Julian Savea's second try of the night.

Joubert denies Scotland

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Coming into the quarter-final weekend, everybody feared a southern hemisphere whitewash. By the time South Africa had slipped past Wales and New Zealand and Argentina had embarrassed France and Ireland, everyone was resigned to the whitewash's inevitability.

But inspired by the magnificent Greig Laidlaw, the Scots were a whisker away from upsetting the Wallabies and saving face for Europe. It was an incredible performance and typified the once-off occasion of knockout rugby.

For a team who had finished this year's Six Nations with the wooden spoon to almost knock off the winners of the most recent Rugby Championship was nothing short of incredible, but the way in which Australia sealed the game means referee Craig Joubert can probably never step foot in Scotland again.

Even World Rugby came out and said Joubert made the wrong call - an unprecedented move that upset many of the rugby establishment. But at the end of the day, Joubert would not have had to make such a call if Scotland had just caught their own lineout.

Australian comeback falls short

Such a fantastic tournament needed a proper send-off, so it was disappointing to see New Zealand run out to a 21-3 lead just after halftime. But a yellow card to Kiwi fullback Ben Smith gave Autralia new life and they clawed their way back to 21-17.

Unfortunately for the Wallabies, the All Blacks found another level and scored another 13 unanswered points as they became the first team to ever successfully defend the William Webb Ellis trophy.

While you might not like to see one team dominate so much, even the most hardened fans had to squeal in delight at some of the intricate play of the champions. When Sonny Bill Williams came on at the half, you knew there would be offloads coming - and Ma'a Nonu took full advantage by putting the game out of reach with this cracker of a try.