England became the first and only northern hemisphere team to date to lift the Webb Ellis Cup when they beat hosts Australia in 2003. They have also made three other Rugby World Cup finals, in 1991, 2007 and 2019, missing out on the coveted prize on each occasion.
We take a look back at England’s Rugby World Cup story.
RWC debut: 23 May, 1987 v Australia at Concord Oval, Sydney
RWC appearances: Played 50 – Won 36 Drawn 0 Lost 14 – Points for 1,569 Points against 783 – Win percentage (72 per cent)
Most RWC appearances: Jason Leonard 22 (1991-2003)
Most RWC tries: Rory Underwood, 11
Best finish: Champions (2003)
Qualification for RWC 2023: Losing finalists at RWC 2019
Most memorable match: Matches against France are always eagerly-awaited and keenly-fought given the historical rivalry between the two nations, but the Rugby World Cup 1991 version of ‘Le Crunch’ was off the scale in intensity. Tempers were frayed and punches laid in the cauldron-like atmosphere of the Parc des Princes. England’s 19-10 victory is best remembered not for any of the scores – Rory Underwood and Will Carling got tries for England and Jean-Baptiste Lafond crossed for Les Bleus – but Micky Skinner’s thunderous tackle on Marc Cécillon.
Iconic moment: Jonny Wilkinson’s match-winning, extra-time drop goal in the Rugby World Cup 2003 final is beyond dispute as the most celebrated moment in English rugby history. Almost as iconic is Ian Robertson’s commentary of how the event unfolded before his eyes on BBC Radio. “This is the one, it’s coming back for Jonny Wilkinson... He drops for World Cup glory... It’s up, it’s over, he’s done it!”
Low point: Becoming the first host nation to fail to make the knockout stages in 2015. With three of their pool opponents ranked in the top 10 in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings, it was never going to be easy ride for Stuart Lancaster’s side but defeats to Wales and Australia, in between wins against Fiji and Uruguay, saw them fall well short of expectations.
Iconic player: Wilkinson is again the obvious choice but without Martin Johnson’s leadership it is doubtful England would have got as far as they did in Australia. Written off by the local press as ‘Dad’s Army’, England had a lot of experienced players within the squad, but Johnson was the pillar upon which their successful campaign was built.
Record-breaker: Jonny Wilkinson kicked 14 drop goals in Rugby World Cups – more than twice as many as his nearest rival, Springbok Jannie de Beer. He is also comfortably the highest points scorer in Rugby World Cup history with 277 points across his four tournaments.
Did you know? England had to qualify for the 1999 tournament and booked their place after wins against Italy (23-15) and the Netherlands (110-0)
Quote: “We got the scrum and cleared our lines, and everyone patted me on the backside. It was great to be part of that moment,” Micky Skinner recalls what happened in the aftermath of his ‘monster munch’ of a tackle on Cécillon.