Rugby World Cup rewind: RWC 1991

World Rugby TV catches up with the main players from past Rugby World Cup finals to hear their thoughts on how the Webb Ellis Cup was won and lost

LONDON, 15 Sept - We continue our series reliving the Rugby World Cup finals through the eyes of the main protagonists with a look back at the 1991 Rugby World Cup final between host England and Australia.

Australia 12-6 England, Twickenham, 2 November 1991

The anticipation

“Leading into the final I got quite crook, I think it’s the stress and the pressure and the anxiety. You feel a bit more pressure captaining a team, you’re always conscious of what’s happening: if the guys are switched on, if they’re in the right frame of mind, if there’s any stones that have been unturned …" – Nick Farr-Jones, Australia.

“We’d left nothing to chance. If anything went wrong in the game we knew how to change it, we knew how to get to Plan B.” – Tim Horan, Australia.

England reached the RWC 1991 largely based on the strength of their pack, Jon Webb’s goal-kicking and Rob Andrew’s ability to play the game in the right areas. Their approach in the final, however, was to take the flamboyant Aussies on at their own game.

The hype

“For some reason we definitely allowed ourselves to be conned a little bit again by the Aussie psychology. Bob Dwyer did a job on us in terms of, ‘It’ll be terrible for the game (of rugby) if England were to win the World Cup: they’re boring; they’ll take the game back 20 years. Will (Carling) and I have disagreed on this for a number of years; we did change our tactics, we got it wrong.” – Rob Andrew, England

“Anyone who has played rugby will realise if a little back decides to change tactics and the forwards don’t agree with you, there’s no way you’re changing tactics. We didn’t want to get into a tactical kicking game and the thinking was let’s actually try and play with ball in hand a little bit more.” – Will Carling, England.

“You can’t change your style of tactic overnight - you’ve either got it or you haven’t.” – David Campese, Australia.


As Australia defended wave after wave of attacks, only an illegal intervention from David Campese prevented a desperate England scoring a try.

The match

“We had caused them problems. We made lots of breaks and we were just one more pass from getting through.” – Rob Andrew, England.

“I looked up, I had Rory Underwood, I had Guscott and I had Winterbottom (in front of me). Winterbottom got the ball and I had to make a decision. I knew his reflexes and skills weren’t as good as a backs, so he’d have to catch it and then take his time so I went for him. What would you have done in my position?” – David Campese, Australia.

“For some reason they went back to playing 10-man rugby and we thought that was a lot easier for us to handle. Whereas if they had kept attacking us on that day, that would have been hard to beat.” – Tim Horan, Australia.

“When you pull on a gold jersey, you like to run in five or six tries, from 50 metres out inter-changing between forwards and backs with great movement of the ball. We got one lousy try that day, a five-metre rolling maul, the most unspectacular of tries.” – Nick Farr-Jones, Australia.

“They had one chance: a peeled line-out, and bang, they scored. It was clinical, it was done very well, and they caught us unawares. We weren’t clinical with any of our chances, and we had lots. We weren’t precise enough and that was the difference.” – Will Carling, England.

Tony Daly’s try meant the southern hemisphere retained its grip on the Webb Ellis Cup for at least another four years.

The final whistle

" I’d probably gone to my grave with regrets had we not won that day"

Nick Farr-Jones, Australia captain

“It’s the only game I would like back as a player, it’s the only one I would like to play again. I think a lot of us feel like that.” – Rob Andrew, England.

“Jeez, I would have loved to have won a World Cup, more than anything. But I think, in all honesty, they were a better side.” – Will Carling, England.

“At the end of the day people don’t remember how we won it, they remember that we did win it. I’d probably gone to my grave with regrets had we not won that day.” – Nick Farr-Jones, Australia.

RNS sw