How Rugby World Cup hosts have fared in the tournament

Jared Wright
Split image of former Springboks captain Francois Pienaar hoisting the Rugby World Cup trophy as along with images of France's Sebastien Chabal and Australia's George Gregan.

A look back at the past tournament and how the host nations have performed at World Cups.

The pressure of hosting the Rugby World Cup has affected teams differently over the years; here is how each host nation fared in their home tournament.

New Zealand and Australia – 1987

New Zealand and Australia jointly hosted the first Rugby World Cup. The All Blacks would go on to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup in a dominant showing throughout. They breezed through the pool stages and knockouts to reach the final.

The likes of Craig Green and John Kirwan were the stars of the show, scoring six tries apiece, while Grant Fox racked up a remarkable 126-point tally.

As for the Wallabies, they were billed as pre-tournament favourites and lived up to their hype until the semi-finals of the competition. In a closely fought encounter, the scores were level at 24 points apiece before France star Serge Blanco scored one of the all-time great tries to race over the line and end Australia’s run for the title, claiming a 30-24 victory.

France had seemingly played their final a week early as they fronted up against New Zealand in the showpiece event and were compressively beaten, falling to a 29-9 defeat as the hosts became the first team to lift the trophy.

England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France – 1991

Like the first World Cup, the second was jointly hosted, this time by the Home Nations and France.

Wales were the only host nation not to progress past the pool stages of the tournament, largely due to their 16-13 loss to Western Samoa.

England would progress to the final, knocking out fellow hosts France and Scotland en route, while Ireland were beaten in the quarter-finals.

However, England would not become the first Northern Hemisphere side to win the World Cup as they fell to a defeat to Australia in the final. The Wallabies would go on to secure a 12-6 victory in a closely fought final, with Nick Farr-Jones becoming the first Australian captain to win the tournament.

South Africa – 1995

South Africa famously hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup, their first appearance at the tournament following the end of apartheid.

Ahead of the tournament, the Springboks were not viewed as the favourites, and despite the pressure of a home World Cup, they beat the odds to top their pool after beating Australia 27-18 in their opening game.

The Boks would go on to beat Samoa in the quarter-finals and edged past France in the semi-finals to set up a final date with their rivals, New Zealand.

In a try-less final, South Africa emerged victorious after limiting the impact of the brilliant Jonah Lomu and thanks to the accurate boot of fly-half Joel Stransky, who nailed a drop-goal in extra time to seal the win.

Wales – 1999

Wales got a second shot at hosting the tournament, this time by themselves, and thankfully, they were able to progress past the pool stage, albeit by the tightest of margins.

Wales, Samoa and Argentina all finished on seven points, but the hosts’ superior points’ difference saw them top the group and proceed to the quarter-finals.

However, they were unable to match South Africa’s heroics four years earlier and were knocked out of the tournament in the quarter-finals.

Australia would become the first nation to win two Rugby World Cups after they edged defending champions South Africa in the semi-finals, thanks to the boots of Matt Burke and Stephen Larkham, before crushing France 35-12 in the final in Cardiff.

Australia – 2003

After becoming the first team to win the tournament twice, Australia had the perfect opportunity to make it three World Cup titles and become the first to go back-to-back.

However, they came up narrowly short as Jonny Wilkinson kicked England to glory in extra-time to seal a 20-17 victory.

The Wallabies topped their pool and had a tough route to the final, defeating Scotland and New Zealand before falling to England.

France – 2007

There was real hope that France could finally claim their first title when they hosted the tournament by themselves for the first time.

However, an opening game loss to Argentina (17-12) quickly dampened those expectations. Les Bleus would bounce back and knock the All Blacks out of the competition in the quarter-finals but were beaten in the semi-finals by defending champions, England.

South Africa would beat Argentina in their semi-final to reach the showpiece event for the second time in their history. The Springboks were favourites this time after trashing their opponents 36-0 in the pool stages. However, it was a far tighter game in the final, with South Africa winning the World Cup once again, beating the Red Rose 15-6.

New Zealand – 2011

Pressure was mounting on the All Blacks to win the World Cup for a second time after failing to do so since 1987. New Zealand were always dominant in between World Cup years but came up short in the 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2007 tournaments.

Despite their earliest exit in the tournament’s history in 2007, New Zealand Rugby opted to keep head coach Graham Henry in charge, and it did the trick as he guided the side to their second title on home soil.

Injuries at fly-half ravaged the All Blacks, with Stephen Donald famously joining the side ahead of the final and kicking a crucial penalty to seal an 8-7 victory over France.

England – 2015

A forgettable World Cup for England, who became the first sole host nation to fail to progress past the pool stages of the tournament.

The side, led by Stuart Lancaster, lost their Pool A fixtures against Australia and Wales, ultimately leading to their failure.

Australia would go on to reach the tournament’s final as they and New Zealand battled it out to become the first team to win three Rugby World Cups.

That would be one step too far for the Wallabies as the All Blacks bid farewell to retiring legends Dan Carter and Richie McCaw, securing a comprehensive 34-17 victory.

The win meant that not only were New Zealand the first team to win three World Cups, but they also became the first team to successfully defend their title.

Japan – 2019

Japan became the first Asian country to host the Rugby World Cup, and they did not disappoint. After defeating South Africa for the first time in the pool stages of the 2019 tournament, Japan were tipped for a strong campaign four years later, but few would have predicted what unfolded.

With Ireland and Scotland in their group, it was always going to be a big ask for the Brave Blossoms to progress to the quarter-finals. However, they exceeded expectations, beating both of the Six Nations sides and topping Pool A.

They were unable to back up their heroics of 2015 as they were soundly beaten by the eventual champions, South Africa, in the quarter-finals.

The Springboks would go on to beat Wales and met England in the final again. Tries from Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Koble sealed South Africa’s third World Cup title as they became the first team to lose a pool stage match and still win the tournament.

France – 2023

The competition is still ongoing, but France has yet to disappoint after handing New Zealand their first-ever Rugby World Cup pool stage defeat.

Les Bleus then convincingly defeated Italy and Uruguay to top their group. However, their dream of winning their first World Cup was dashed when the Springboks claimed a 29-28 victory over the hosts.

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