Five closest World Cup calls ever

Date published: June 4 2015

Rugby World Cups are won and lost by the narrowest of margins and the road to the final has often been a rocky one. 

World Cups best remembered for great tries, exciting matches, giant-slayngs and, above all else, winners. But what about the unlucky losers?

Spare a thought for all those 'if onlys', 'what ifs' and 'oh so nearlys' from heroic displays by the brave underdogs who suffered heartbreak on the cusp of making history against their more fancied opponents.

The Rugby World Cup is as much about the lows as it is the highs and we are sure to see plenty of near misses at this year's tournament in England.

Here are the five closest calls ever at the competition…

5. South Africa 30-25 Tonga, Pool A, 2007
South Africa looked shell-shocked and were forced to bring on the cavalry as Tonga fought back from 27-10 down to within five points following two quick tries. Despite clinging on in the closing stages, they managed to grind out the win and go on to become world champions. Four years later, the Springboks were also given big scares by Wales (17-16) and 14-man Samoa (13-5) in Pool D.

4. Scotland 22-20 Fiji, Pool B, 2003
As expected, Scotland got the result they needed to reach the knockout stages. What was unexpected though, was how close Fiji came to taking their place. The Fijians led 20-15 with two minutes to go before Api Naevo was sin-binned and, from the resulting penalty, Tom Smith bundled over with Chris Paterson adding the extras to send the Scots through.

3. Ireland 14-10 Georgia, Pool D, 2007
Georgia may have come up short, but they came off the pitch like winners to a standing ovation after they pushed a lacklustre Ireland all the way in Bordeaux. Giorgi Shkinin's intercept try gave them a shock lead before Girvan Dempsey replied. However, the Irish had to defend desperately to hold on as the Georgians were held up over the line and denied a famous victory.

2. Australia 19-18 Ireland, Quarter-final, 1991
Ireland were minutes away from pulling off a major upset when Gordon Hamilton scored what looked like the winning try in the 73rd minute to put them 18-15 up at Lansdowne Road. However, Michael Lynagh broke Irish hearts late on as Australia salvaged victory from the jaws of defeat and went on to eventually lift the William Webb Ellis Cup. Ireland came close to slaying the Aussies, then defending champions, again in 2003 as David Humphreys missed a late drop-goal attempt which saw the hosts edge a tight Pool A encounter 17-16.

1. New Zealand 8-7 France, Final 2011
Having already comfortably beaten the French 37-17 in the pool stages, hosts New Zealand were not expecting such a close call from France – who were stunned by Tonga and squeezed past 14-man Wales – in the final. However, les Bleus gave the All Blacks an almighty scare as they threatened another upset against the Kiwis who hung on, despite multiple appeals for referee Craig Joubert to award France a penalty, before claiming the title.

Tell us below which games you predict will produce close calls in 2015…

By Aron Hegarty