The Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of international rugby union and the best teams in the world will do battle in a bid to lift the Webb Ellis Cup later this year.
New Zealand and South Africa lead the way with three titles apiece while England remain the only northern hemisphere nation to win the competition.
List of Rugby World Cup Winners:
1987 – New Zealand
1991 – Australia
1995 – South Africa
1999 – Australia
2003 – England
2007 – South Africa
2011 – New Zealand
2015 – New Zealand
2019 – South Africa
The stage is set for a memorable tournament in 2023 and hosts France are prominent in the rugby betting odds to prevail for the first time.
Without further ado, it’s time to delve into the history of Rugby World Cup winners and the respective record of competing nations at the tournament.
1987 Rugby World Cup Winners
New Zealand and Australia hosted the inaugural World Cup, with 16 nations involved in the competition. It will come as no surprise to hear that the All Blacks were crowned champions after a hard-fought victory over France in the final at Eden Park, Auckland.
The All Blacks outscored their opponents 298-52 in six games at the tournament, confirming their status as the greatest rugby union team in the world at that time.
New Zealand fly-half Grant Fox finished the 1987 Rugby World Cup as the leading points scorer with 126 points while wingers Craig Green and John Kirwan notched six tries apiece.
You won’t find too many rugby fans who’d have thought the All Blacks would have to wait 24 years for their next taste of Rugby World Cup glory…
Rugby World Cup Final 1987 result: New Zealand 29-9 France
1991 Rugby World Cup Winners
Hosted by England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and France, the 1991 Rugby World Cup involved a fair bit of travel for fans but it was still a thrilling spectacle. New Zealand were still labelled as the best team in the sport but we were about to see a changing of the guard.
Australia knocked the All Blacks out in the semi-finals and the Wallabies went on to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, defeating hosts England at Twickenham in the showpiece.
Ireland’s Ralph Keyes finished as the top points scorer with 68 while Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Lafond and Australia’s David Campese tied for the top try scorer with six scores.
In other news, the pool stage saw one of the biggest Rugby World Cup shocks when Western Samoa secured a 16-13 victory over Wales in Cardiff.
Rugby World Cup Final 1991 result: Australia 12-6 England
1995 Rugby World Cup Winners
The 1995 Rugby World Cup final was the first in tournament history to go to extra-time and hosts South Africa came out on top against New Zealand. The result sparked jubilant scenes and President Nelson Mandela presented the Webb Ellis Cup while wearing a team jersey.
No tries were scored but the game wasn’t short on drama, with both teams well matched. In the end, Joel Stransky converted a drop goal deep into extra time to clinch the victory.
20-year-old Jonah Lomu burst onto the scene at the 1995 tournament and the All Blacks star finished level with compatriot Marc Ellis on seven tries. Meanwhile, Thierry Lacroix led the tournament for points scored with 112.
New Zealand recorded the biggest win at a Rugby World Cup during the pool stages, beating Japan 145-17 at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
Rugby World Cup Final 1995 result: South Africa 15-12 New Zealand (aet)
1999 Rugby World Cup Winners
Hosted by Wales, Australia were crowned Rugby World Cup champions for the second time after a convincing victory over France in the final. The Millennium Stadium were treated to a scintillating performance from the Wallabies and the result was never in doubt.
Australia became the first team to win the Webb Ellis Cup for the second time with this success but the Wallabies have yet to taste victory since, despite regularly featuring near the top of the rugby world rankings.
Argentina fly-half Gonzalo Quesada ended the tournament as the top points scorer with 102 while Lomu set a new record for most tries at a Rugby World Cup with eight scores.
France lost in the showpiece for the second time in 16 years and the margin of 23 points in the 1995 contest remains the heaviest defeat in Rugby World Cup history.
Rugby World Cup Final 1999 result: Australia 35-12 France
2003 Rugby World Cup Winners
England became the first northern hemisphere nation to win the Rugby World Cup when they defeated host nation Australia in the 2003 competition. Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal is undoubtedly the most famous moment in English rugby history.
For the second time in three tournaments, the Rugby World Cup final went to extra-time after the scores were level at the end of regulation time. Eventually, England would defy many Rugby World Cup predictions to lift the trophy.
Wilkinson ended the tournament with 113 points, which was enough to secure the top points scorer award for the competition.
While the All Blacks failed to advance to the final, Doug Howlett and Mils Muliaina finished as the top try scorers were seven scores apiece.
Rugby World Cup Final 2003 result: England 20-17 Australia (aet)
2007 Rugby World Cup Winners
Optimism was high in France as they hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup but a semi-final loss to England ended any chance of a first Webb Ellis Cup for Les Bleus. Defending champions England had to settle for runners up as South Africa came out on top in Paris.
The two finalists were both drawn in Pool A and the Springboks ran out 36-0 winners in the initial stage. While England improved considerably as the tournament went on, they couldn’t avenge that loss in the final.
South Africa players dominated the individual awards, with Percy Montgomery topping the points scored (105) charts and Bryan Habana equalling Lomu’s tally of eight tries in a single Rugby World Cup campaign.
Rugby World Cup Final 2007 result: South Africa 15-6 England
2011 Rugby World Cup Winners
It wasn’t pretty but New Zealand edged past France in Auckland to clinch their second Rugby World Cup title. To this day, their one point victory remains the slimmest margin in competition history.
France were almost eliminated in the pool stage after defeats against the All Blacks and a shock loss to Tonga but Les Bleus really hit their stride in the knockout rounds, beating England and Wales in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.
South Africa star Morné Steyn finished the tournament as the top points scorer (62) while England winger Chris Ashton and Frenchman Vincent Clerc tied for the top try scorer award with six tries each.
Rugby World Cup Final 2011 result: New Zealand 8-7 France
2015 Rugby World Cup Winners
The 2015 Rugby World Cup was full of drama and excitement and it was New Zealand who emerged victorious at Twickenham Stadium, with the All Blacks becoming the first team in history to retain the trophy.
New Zealand faced Australia in the final but the All Blacks were always in control and many rank their 2015 World Cup-winning squad as one of the greatest New Zealand teams to play the game.
England were eliminated in the group stages, with Stuart Lancaster’s team becoming the first host nation to crash out of the tournament in the first round. It was arguably the most embarrassing moment in English rugby history.
Argentina’s Nicolás Sánchez finished as the top points scorer while Julian Savea equalled the great Jonah Lomu and Bryan Habana by notching a World Cup record eight tries.
Rugby World Cup Final 2015 result: New Zealand 34-17 Australia
2019 Rugby World Cup Winners
South Africa recorded their third Rugby World Cup triumph in 2019, beating England in the showpiece fixture in Yokohama. History was made once again, with the Springboks becoming the first team to win the tournament despite losing a pool stage match.
The final was a bit of a damp squib (especially for England fans) as South Africa took control from the outset and the Springboks eventually ran out 32-12 winners. While many expected a close contest, South Africa were dominant.
Handré Pollard finished as the 2019 Rugby World Cup top points scorer while Wales winger Josh Adams notched seven tries – a tally that was enough to see him finish the tournament as the top try scorer.
That margin of 20 points was enough to put further misery on England – it is the heaviest defeat in a Rugby World Cup final.
Rugby World Cup Final 2019 result: South Africa 32-12 England
2023 Rugby World Cup Winners
Find our 2023 Rugby World Cup predictions and tips here...