The upcoming Rugby World Cup in France starting on 8 September will be the 10th tournament in the series. 

The previous nine have provided us with a multitude of great tries, classic games, and not a little controversy since the first tournament took place in New Zealand in 1987.

Rather than simply picking out the top highlights for you to read about in this article, we thought we would try and categorise them under various headings based on typical sporting archetypes you will often come across at such events of this kind.

So, here are nine highlights from previous Rugby World Cups that sum up what the sport is really about.

1. A classic underdog story: Japan stun South Africa in 2015

The nature of international rugby means that big wins by underdogs over strongly-favoured opponents tend to be rare. 

That is why the first highlight on this list had to be one of the biggest upsets in rugby history. In fact, as the commentator said during the dramatic conclusion of the match, it was one of the biggest sporting upsets ever, let alone rugby. 

Not only was Japan beating South Africa an against-the-odds upset, but it was also a classic game of rugby, with an utterly nerve-shredding ending. 

Japan turned down several opportunities to go for a very kickable three points and a worthy draw.  Instead, they chose to walk the tightrope of one mistake and the game being over. By doing this, they elevated a classic game to the status of extraordinary. 

2. The emergence of a true world superstar: Jonah Lomu runs over England in 1995

World Cups in any sport are a great chance for emerging new players to make an immediate name for themselves on a big stage. 

In these days of internet and almost every sporting event being filmed, even if it is just with a mobile phone, it is rare for someone to rise to international fame without warning. 

But back in 1995, Jonah Lomu was really only known to New Zealand rugby experts, having played only twice for the All Blacks in the run-up to the tournament.

Yet, after seven tries in five matches, including most memorably four in the semi-final over England, there was not a rugby fan unaware of who he was. 

He became the first true global superstar of rugby, and consequently had a huge impact on the game.

3. A single moment that becomes indelible: the Wilkinson drop goal

Regardless of the sport, World Cups capture the imagination like few other sporting events.

As a result, certain match-winning events are engrained deep into the heart of every sports fan. 

That is the reason why the drop goal by Jonny Wilkinson to win the Rugby World Cup in 2003 has to be on this list. 

Every English rugby fan can not only tell you exactly where they were when they saw it happen, but they can also close their eyes and picture in detail what happened in the 15 seconds or so before Matt Dawson fed the ball back to Wilkinson.

4. A dramatic comeback: France turn on the flair to beat the All Blacks in 1999

Comebacks in international rugby are not rare. But winning convincingly after being 14 points behind against totally dominant opponents is not a common occurrence, to say the least. 

Yet, so it was for France playing against the All Blacks at Twickenham in the 1999 semi-final. Do not forget France had won the wooden spoon in the Six Nations earlier that year, and no one fancied them to beat a dominant All Blacks side.

In an extraordinary second-half turn-around, they scored 33 unanswered points and won one of the greatest victories in even their storied rugby history.

5. A moment of controversy: Wayne Barnes misses a forward pass in 2007

One of the joys of sport is that it can still create an intense reaction from supporters to a controversial decision, years after the event. 

Rugby World Cups have produced a fair few such events over the years, such as the disallowed Mark Cueto try for England in the 2007 final, or Scotland losing a quarter-final to Australia in 2015 due to an erroneous penalty decision. 

Despite two subsequent World Cup wins, many Kiwis are still not over the 2007 quarter-final against France, in which Wayne Barnes failed to spot a clear forward pass from Damien Traille to Freddie Michalak in the lead up to a France try.

It led to the earliest ever exit from a World Cup for the All Blacks, crashing out at the quarter-final stage.

6. An epochal moment that transcends sport: President Mandela and Francois Pienaar

Sport and politics do not always make happy bedfellows, and there is a very valid argument that they should stay on newspaper back and front pages respectively. 

But there have been occasions when they do enjoy a poignant coming together into a single image.

Probably the most remarkable example of this was at the 1995 World Cup final. The image of President Nelson Mandela wearing a South African rugby shirt was extraordinary to see, given that it had historically been one of the symbols of an apartheid system that had kept him locked up on Robben Island for 27 years. 

His handshake with captain Francois Pienaar made front pages all over the world.

It is an image that the World Rugby Museum suggests could be the most iconic in the history of sport, and it is hard to disagree with that summation. 

7. Something just completely bizarre: Jannie de Beer kicks five drop goals

Drop goals are relatively rare in international rugby. When they are successful, they look good, but far more are missed than scored. 

After all, it is often overlooked that the famous Jonny Wilkinson drop goal was preceded by three failed attempts in the same game. 

All this makes Jannie de Beer casually slotting five successful drop goals in five attempts for South Africa against England in the space of 31 second-half minutes truly remarkable. 

You can hear the increasing incredulity of the commentator as, one after another, they fly between the posts.

8. A dramatic late score to win a game seemingly lost: Serge Blanco in 1987

The lack of widespread media coverage has meant that events at the 1987 World Cup in New Zealand have tended to fly under the radar in the ensuing decades. 

One notable exception, however, is the last-gasp try French legend, Serge Blanco, scored against the Wallabies in the semi-final.

France had struggled to keep up all game but, with seconds left on the clock and starting deep within their territory, they ran the ball through the hands of 11 players. This mesmerising display ended with the ball touched down by Blanco in the corner. 

There is a wonderful moment as the commentator declares: “No way I am even going to attempt to describe that try!”

9. A team finally fulfilling expectations: All Blacks redemption in 2011

After their victory in the first-ever event, subsequent attempts by the All Blacks to win the Webb Ellis Cup again over the next two decades played out like a national psychodrama for the rest of us to watch every four years.

Time after time, with the expectations of an entire nation on their shoulders, the All Blacks turned up as one of the favourites, only to have their hopes dashed by a mixture of bad luck and inspired opponents. 

It made the “four more years lads” taunt by Australian George Gregan in 2003 one of the most wounding sporting sledges ever. 

So, by 2011, there was an air of desperation mixed in with the usual expectation, especially in front of a home audience.

A key part of many sporting redemptions is that the ultimate victory is rarely straightforward. It was appropriate that New Zealand finally broke a 24-year hoodoo with their fourth-string fly-half kicking the crucial points in the 8-7 win over France. 

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