The Rugby World Cup has returned to France, with defending champions South Africa hoping to retain the Webb Ellis Cup and become the record holders with four successes.
They will face fierce competition from their southern hemisphere rivals New Zealand, France and World No.1-ranked side Ireland, who are all among the favourites in the rugby union odds.
France have hosted Rugby World Cup games several times in the past, as they co-hosted alongside England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales in 1991 and 1999. This is just the second time the European country has homed the tournament as sole host, however, with the 2007 Rugby World Cup taking place in France.
The Springboks will have fond memories of that renewal, as they were crowned champions at the Stade de France. So, as South Africa aim to reign victorious in Paris once again, let’s take a look back at that thrilling tournament.
Despite France being the host, several pool games were held at Murrayfield in Edinburgh and the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. Scotland played two of their Pool C fixtures on home soil, beating Romania 42-0 and losing 40-0 to New Zealand, while Wales lost 32-20 to Australia before beating Japan 72-18 in Cardiff.
Pool A saw former World Cup winners South Africa and England go head-to-head, with the Springboks coming out on top thanks to a 36-0 win over the defending champions. Tonga, Samoa and the United States were eliminated.
There were no surprises in Pool B and Pool C, as southern hemisphere rivals Australia and New Zealand secured the top spots in their respective standings. They were joined in the quarter-finals by Fiji and Scotland.
Argentina caused a huge stir in Pool D, as the South American outfit stunned France 17-12 in the opening game and went on to top the group. Les Bleus were second, with Ireland heading home early in third.
The first knockout game saw England take on Australia at the Stade Velodrome and the Webb Ellis Cup holders came out on top with a narrow 12-10 win in Marseille. Finishing second in their pool meant France had to face New Zealand in the last eight, but the hosts also won a slender two points — beating the All Blacks 20-18.
South Africa made light enough work of Fiji in their quarter-final, beating the Pacific nation 37-20 in Marseille, while Argentina’s fine run continued with a 19-13 victory over Scotland at the Stade de France.
England and France faced off in the first semi-final, with England flying out of the blocks in Paris thanks to an Owen Lewsey try in the second minute. That turned out to be the only try of the game, however, as Jonny Wilkinson converted two penalties and a drop goal while Lionel Beauxis scored three penalties for France in the 14-9 defeat.
In the other semi-final, Argentina’s fairy-tale run was brought to an abrupt halt by South Africa. The Springboks scored three tries and a penalty in the first half and notched another try and a further two penalties in the second 40 minutes to seal a 37-13 win.
After France were stunned by Argentina once again in the bronze medal match, losing by a hefty 34 points to 10, it was time for the showpiece. England had the chance to become the first team in Rugby World Cup history to defend the Webb Ellis Cup, but they could put no more than six points on the board thanks to two Wilkinson pe nalties. It was a lackluster affair, with South Africa ultimately winning 15-6 as they converted five penalties.