England v Australia: Five classic World Cup clashes

Two World Cup final wins on their opponents' turf feature among the epic encounters between these two, who face each other in the first quarter-final of RWC 2019.

OITA, 15 Oct - When the teams meet in Oita on Saturday, England-Australia will join France-New Zealand and Australia-Wales as the most-played Rugby World Cup fixtures of all time with seven meetings between the sides. 

After six games, the teams' RWC record stands at three-all. It is almost as close overall: England can tie the series with a win in Oita. Of the 50 games since 1909, the Wallabies have won 25, England 24 and there has been one draw.

We take a look at some classic RWC clashes between England and Australia ahead of their meeting on Saturday.

England 6-12 Australia

1991 Rugby World Cup final, Twickenham

England changed tactics away from a reliance on their outstanding pack to take the fight to Australia, especially on the wings, and run the ball - a move that has been put down to the taunts of winger David Campese.

Ironically, the Wallabies’ try came from their pack after a storming Tim Horan run turned defence in their own 22 to a lineout five metres from the England line, prop Tony Daly going over.

With England pressing for a try, Campese was penalised for going one-handed to stop flanker Peter Winterbottom’s pass from reaching Rory Underwood, who would have been favourite to reach the try-line.

It was a key moment and all England were able to gain from the position on the opposition 22 was a Jonathan Webb penalty. It set up a frantic finish with England on the attack, but the Wallabies did not yield.


England 25-22 Australia

1995 Rugby World Cup quarter-final, Cape Town

Australia beaten at a Rugby World Cup by England thanks to a drop goal - sounds familiar... On this occasion, however, Rob Andrew was England’s hero at Newlands.

His long-range drop goal - estimated at 45 metres - went high and through the posts with 82 minutes 35 seconds on the clock, although there was still one more Wallabies' attack for England to survive before the referee brought a breathless match to an end.

England had led 13-6 at half-time thanks to a breakaway try from Tony Underwood, but the Wallabies tied the scores at 13-13. Andrew and Michael Lynagh matched each other penalty for penalty until the scores stood at 22-22 with time running out.

David Campese tried to settle it with a drop goal attempt that went well wide before Andrew fired off one of his greatest kicks.


England 20-17 Australia

2003 Rugby World Cup final, Sydney

The greatest moment in English rugby history turned one player, Jonny Wilkinson, into a national icon. His drop goal – off his weaker right foot – with 26 seconds of extra time remaining gave England sweet revenge for the pain of losing the 1991 final to Australia on home soil.

It was a pulsating match in which England head coach Clive Woodward pitted his wits against Australia’s Eddie Jones. The two teams were so well matched that something remarkable was needed to separate them.

Wilkinson supplied that moment of magic, but it was ‘Billy Whizz’ Jason Robinson who scored England’s try having earlier been beaten to a high ball by Lote Tuqiri for the Wallabies' try.

The match was tied at 14-14 at the end of normal time and 17-17 in extra-time before Matt Dawson fired out the most important pass of his career to allow Wilkinson to drop for glory.

England 12-10 Australia

2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-final, Marseille

England’s title defence suffered a hammer blow with a 36-0 pool stage defeat by South Africa, the team they would eventually lose to in the final.

Brian Ashton’s team were still trying to convince the doubters they could mount a serious bid to win back-to-back cups when they ran out against Australia in Marseille.

England's man-mountain prop Andrew Sheridan, below, gave the Wallabies all kinds of problems and Wilkinson again tormented the men in gold, kicking four from seven penalty attempts.

"It was our worst performance of the tournament," said Wallabies' coach John Connolly. "Our scrum got into strife and England controlled the breakdown." Australia’s Lote Tuqiri again scored a try in a losing cause.

England 13-33 Australia

2015 Rugby World Cup pool match, Twickenham

England suffered the ignominy of being the first Rugby World Cup host nation to fail to get out of their pool after defeats by Wales and the Wallabies. It would signal the end of the line for head coach Stuart Lancaster and the arrival of Eddie Jones.

In the first RWC pool match between the pair since a 19-6 Australia win in 1987, the Wallabies had no interest in England’s problems as they were celebrating a remarkable individual performance from fly-half Bernard Foley, who finished with 28 points through two tries, four penalties and three conversions.

Foley punished England’s mistakes and by half-time the Wallabies were 17-3 up at a stunned Twickenham.

England did get back to 20-13 with 15 minutes to go thanks to an Anthony Watson try, but Owen Farrell was yellow-carded and Matt Giteau wrapped up the match with his try.

RNS cj/sg/rl/bo