RWC 1987: Campese, Blanco and the All Blacks
AUCKLAND, 26 Aug. - In 1987 New Zealand and Australia hosted the first Rugby World Cup, a tournament memorable for David Campese, Serge Blanco and the brilliance of the All Blacks.
Seven of the 16 places went to IRB members Australia, England, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. To fill the remaining nine berths, Argentina, Canada, Fiji, Italy, Japan, Romania, Tonga, the United States and Zimbabwe were invited. South Africa missed the first two RWCs due to the international boycott against apartheid.
Twenty one of the 32 matches took place in New Zealand and the All Blacks kicked off the tournament on 22 May by beating Italy 70-6 at Auckland’s Eden Park.
Of the three matches the next day, France and Scotland produced RWC's first draw with a 20-20 thriller. Matt Duncan scored in the corner in the last minute to bring Scotland level, but Gavin Hastings, who had converted four penalties, missed the sideline conversion. There would not be another RWC draw for 211 matches until Japan tied 12-12 with Canada in 2007.
The first RWC match featuring a Pacific Islands side saw Tonga lose 37-4 to Canada in Napier. Later that day the region had something to cheer when Fiji produced the competition’s first upset by beating Argentina 28-9 in Hamilton.
In their next match Fiji were crushed 74-13 by New Zealand in Christchurch, as Grant Fox kicked 10 conversions and two penalties. Craig Green and John Gallagher scoring four tries each, a feat matched later in the tournament by Wales’ Ieuan Evans in a 40-9 win over Canada.
Fox's 26 points equalled fellow All Black Allan Hewson’s 1982 world record against Australia. However, Scotland’s Hastings posted 27 points against Romania a few days later when he converted his own try in Dunedin. That also broke the RWC 1,000 points barrier.
Two hours later France’s Didier Camberabero scored 30 in the 70-12 win over Zimbabwe. The French crossed for 13 tries in Auckland to equal the record set three times previously by England in 1881, New Zealand in 1913 and France in 1924.
Hastings was outgunned by Fox in the quarter-finals, the All Black kicking 22 points as the hosts triumphed 30-3 in Christchurch. France beat Fiji 31-16 in Auckland while Australia polished off Ireland 33-15 in Sydney. The last semi-final place was claimed by Wales with a 16-3 win over England in Brisbane.
The Australia v France semi-final in Sydney is regarded as a classic. The Wallabies were led by Campese who scored his 25th career try to break the world record of 24 by Scotland’s Ian Smith, a mark that had stood for 54 years. But France stunned their hosts with a 30-24 win, the match ending with Blanco's famous try and Camberabero's conversion.
The second semi-final was more one-sided as the All Blacks overwhelmed Wales 49-6 in Brisbane, producing eight tries by six different scorers. Huw Richards of Wales became RWC’s first dimissal after throwing punches at Gary Whetton (and being knocked down by Wayne Shelford for his trouble).
In the third-place play-off Wales beat Australia 22-21 as Wallaby flanker David Codey was sent off after only four minutes and 32 seconds, which remains the quickest RWC dismissal.
New Zealand confirmed they were in a league of their own in the final, beating France 29-9 to finish the competition with 298 points scored and only 52 conceded. Fly-half Grant Fox scored 17 of his 126 tournament points in the final. That total and his 30 conversions are records for a single World Cup that still stand.
Fifteen different All Blacks had scored tries, Craig Green and John Kirwan leading the way with six apiece. On 20 June 1987, David Kirk became the first player to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.