The rugby autumn international season is with us again, as the northern and southern hemispheres once again face each down in a spirit of fierce rivalry.
The clashes between the hemispheres are often the most remarkable, most memorable and significant encounters for rugby fans, the games that live in the memory and are as thrilling to recall as they were to watch. Here we recall some of the most significant.
France v New Zealand Rugby World Cup 1999
The semi final was played at Twickenham, and almost everyone expected a hard, but straightforward progression of the All Blacks to the final in Cardiff.
In some ways the French had overachieved by even making the semis, they’d taken the Wooden Spoon in that year’s Five Nations, were dogged by infighting and were considered fortunate not to have met a top team in the tournament to that point.
However, on their day any French team can beat anybody, and on this day all the old flair, dynamic running, brute strength and utter brilliance to run out 43-31 victors - including 33 unanswered points when the All Blacks were up 24-10.
England v Australia Rugby World Cup 2003
The 2003 World Cup Final pitched a rampant England team against hosts Australia. The game was far tighter than anyone expected, with typical Australian pluck, nerves and some questionable referring making the contest extremely gripping.
However, as the two teams matched scores on 80 minutes, the clock ticked away the extra time as Australia equalised again. England drove. Penalty, kick to touch, drive again and the left boot of Wilkinson created history.
Wales v New Zealand World Cup 2003
Sometimes the score is no reflection on the game. A 53-37 score in favour of New Zealand doesn’t begin to do it. At half time, Wales led 37-33 and shook the All Blacks in a titanic battle. Too titanic for the reds as they ran out of steam towards the end but the game remains in the opinion of many, the best of that year’s World Cup.
England v South Africa world cup 1999
Rugby is a difficult game for a single player to dominate. Especially when that player is largely unknown, standing in for an injured colleague, but Jannie de Beer kicked England out of the RWC in Paris in an astonishing performance with the boot with 5 penalties, 5 drop kicks and 2 conversions as the Springboks ran out 44-21.
Barbarians v New Zealand 1973
1973, Cardiff Arms Park and the greatest try ever. Brian Williams kicks forward, Phil Bennett picks up and the ball goes through the hands of JPR Williams, John Pullen, John Dawes, Tom David and Derek Quinnell before finally Gareth Edwards flies into the corner to the soundtrack of the magnificent commentary of the late Cliff Morgan.
It couldn’t be scored today [New Zealand’s high tackle count would see to that] but it certainly goes down as one of the most memorable tries of all time.
The games in this year’s Autumn Internationals may not live up to those great encounters, but it won’t be for the wanted of trying, or the faint hearted.
This article was produced by sports hospitality group Keith Prowse.
[Image author owned and free to use.]