1991 Rugby World Cup
The 1991 Rugby World Cup was the second edition of the Rugby World Cup, and was jointly hosted by England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France: at the time, the five European countries who participated in the Five Nations Championship. This was the first Rugby World Cup to be staged in the northern hemisphere, with England the hosts of the final. Also for the first time, qualifying competitions were introduced as the number of entrants had increased from 16 nations four years before to a total of 33 countries. The eight quarter-finalists from 1987 qualified automatically with the remaining eight spots contested through qualifiers by 25 countries. This resulted in only one new side qualifying for the tournament, Western Samoa replacing Tonga. The same 16-team pool/knock-out format was used with just minor changes to the points system. South Africa was again not included because of sanctions imposed on the country by the IRB, due to the government's apartheid policies.
|Host nations|| England|
|Dates||3 October – 2 November (31 days)|
|No. of nations||16 (33 qualifying)|
|Third place||New Zealand|
|Attendance||1,021,827 (31,932 per match)|
|Top scorer(s)||Ralph Keyes (68)|
|Most tries|| Jean-Baptiste Lafond|
(6 tries each)
The pool stages produced a major shock when Western Samoa, who were making their debut in the tournament, defeated 1987 semi-finalist Wales 16–13 in Cardiff. Along with the other results in the group, this led to the elimination of Wales, who finished third in Pool 3. Also notable in pool play was that Canada finished second in their pool to qualify for the quarter-finals, which remains their best performance in the World Cup. Fiji, as quarter-finalists four years earlier, had expected to occupy that position, but after the upset loss to Canada and a hammering by France, they lost even their final match against the unfancied Romanian team. Earlier, the opening match had pitted the holders New Zealand against the hosts England: New Zealand overturned a narrow half-time deficit to win the match and the pool, both teams qualifying for the quarter-finals with easy victories in their other matches. Scotland beat Ireland to top their pool, again both teams qualifying.
In the quarter-finals, neither Canada nor Western Samoa proved a match for New Zealand or Scotland, respectively. Meanwhile, England knocked out 1987 finalist France in a bruising encounter. Australia pipped Ireland 19–18 in a thrilling match at Lansdowne Road, with a last-gasp try from fly-half Michael Lynagh coming after the Irish took an unexpected 18–15 lead. The semi-finals produced two tight matches: England overcame Scotland 9–6, a late drop goal deciding a tryless match in a torrential downpour at Murrayfield Stadium, and Australia defeated the defending champions New Zealand 16–6 at Lansdowne Road.