Book excerpt: Six of the best Rugby World Cup memories

Over the coming weeks we’ll be publishing excerpts from The Rugby World Cup 2019 Book: Everything You Need to Know About the Rugby World Cup.

Written by Graeme Copas, a respected sports journalist and editor of more than 25 years, the book is an ideal gift ahead of the tournament.

Here we focus on a chapter called ‘Six of the best Rugby World Cup memories’ and continue by heading back to the 1999 World Cup.

1999: Les Bleus tame the All Blacks

France’s memorable comeback to thump World Cup favourites New Zealand 45-31 in the 1999 semi-final was a fillip, albeit temporarily, for French rugby, the game in the northern hemisphere and those who like their rugby silky and smooth rather than powerful and strong.

With the irresistible Jonah Lomu on the wing, the All Blacks had been rampant, coming into the contest against France having scored 205 points and conceding just 46, in matches against England, Tonga, Italy and Scotland.

Les Bleus were also unbeaten, having overcome Fiji, Canada, Namibia and Argentina but had been far less convincing, and this was to be the case in the initial period of the semi-final held at Twickenham in London.

Lomu, who was to finish the World Cup as leading try scorer with eight, scored two typically bull-like tries as the All Blacks led 24-10 in what had been a dominant first-half performance.

They were expected to continue in that manner in the second period, thus setting up a final against Australia.

The match, in front of a crowd of 70,000, was then turned on its head, and the tournament likewise, when France fought back in a style which few teams can replicate.

Two drop goals and two penalties from fly-half Christophe Lamaison set them on their way before Christophe Dominici ran in a spectacular try and victory was sealed with a late score from Phillipe Bernat-Salles.

France had come from behind against the best team in the world and done so by playing with Gallic fair and considerable pride.

The All Blacks had few answers to their opponents’ unpredictability, falling back on their go-to plan of giving the ball to Lomu and hoping he could smash through the French defence, but when that failed, so did they.

Unfortunately for France they were unable to reach these heights one more time in the final against Australia which they lost 35-12.

It left them then, as they are now, probably the best team in the world never to have lifted the Webb Ellis Cup; that famous unpredictability being both their greatest strength and Achilles heel.

The Rugby World Cup 2019 Book: Everything You Need to Know About the Rugby World Cup, is out now and can be purchased here.

Written by Graeme Copas, it is published by Meyer & Meyer Sport, Europe’s leading specialist sports publisher.

Thoroughly researched, the book is a comprehensive guide to the third biggest sporting competition in the world – covering the history, the build-up, the statistics, the 20 teams, star players, and the schedule of this showcase rugby union tournament, while providing talking points, in-depth analysis and insightful interviews.