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PARIS - The first Rugby World Cup was played in New Zealand in 1987, with some matches being played in Australia. Sixteen teams participated
The inaugural tournament featured seven IRB board member nations and nine invitees. South Africa, punished by sanctions because of apartheid, was excluded.
New Zealand winger John Kirwan lit up the first- ever World Cup match when he ran through the entire Italy team for an 80-metre solo try.
France won the match of the tournament when Serge Blanco capped a last-minute breaking run to beat Australia in the semifinals at Sydney, but the peerless All Blacks won the Eden Park final by 20 points.
Final: New Zealand 29 (Michael Jones, David Kirk, John Kirwan scored tries; Grant Fox 5 penalties, conversion, France 9 (Pierre Berbizier try; Didier Camberabero conversion, penalty). 1991 England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland - Teams: 16
Michael Jones scored the tournament's opening try again as New Zealand beat England at Twickenham, but the All Blacks fell in the semifinals to David Campese's magic. Fortunate merely to pass Ireland in the quarterfinals, Australia beat the All Blacks in the semis and won the final over the hosts with the only try. Other notable matches included Western Samoa's defeat of Wales at Cardiff Arms Park, and England's win over France in the semifinals.
Final: Australia 12 (Tony Daly try; Michael Lynagh 2 penalties, conversion), England 6 (Jon Webb 2 penalties).
1995: South Africa - Teams: 16
Three years after being readmitted to rugby, South Africa pulled off a stunning victory hosting the last amateur tournament. Notable backing from new president, Nelson Mandela, helped unite his country behind the traditionally white Springboks.
The only black player, Chester Williams, became a bona fide star. New Zealand winger Jonah Lomu became world renowned after demolishing England in the semifinals, but he was shut down at Ellis Park in a captivating final, the first to go to extra time and decided by Joel Stransky's drop goal.
Final: South Africa 15 (Joel Stransky 3 penalties, 2 drop goals), New Zealand 12 (Andrew Mehrtens 3 penalties, 1 drop goal).
1999: Wales, England, Scotland, France and Ireland - Teams: 16
Australia became the first nation to win the World Cup twice, but the final was overshadowed by the semifinals. Unfancied France rallied from 24-10 behind to oust New Zealand 43-31 in one of the great upsets, and South Africa forced extra time against Australia, which won on Stephen Larkham's first ever dropped goal, from 48 metres.
Final: Australia 35 (Owen Finnegan, Ben Tune tries, Matt Burke 7 penalties, 2 conversions), France 12 (Christophe Lamaison: 4 penalties).
2003: Australia - Teams: 20
The semifinals were as expected but England, Australia and New Zealand had to survive pool scares.
The only surprise was Australia's upset of the All Blacks in the semifinals. - Sapa-AP-AFP