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From packed out training sessions to scratched swan songs: the highs and lows of RWC 2019

By Online Editors
Kenki Fukuoka celebrates with teammates after scoring against Scotland last week. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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The 2019 Rugby World Cup has finally come to a close, with South Africa crowned champions for the third time.


Asia’s first shot at hosting rugby’s showpiece tournament has been a raging success that will hopefully boost the sport’s profile in the region for years to come.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, however.

So, what were the highs and lows of the competition?

Continue reading below…

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South Africa champions for third time

England went into the final as slight favourites but South Africa were dominant from the off. The Springboks wore a nervy looking England down with their scrummaging and their accurate kicking game. South Africa led 12-6 at the break and second-half tries from Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe put the seal on another world title to add to those of 1995 and 2007.

Japan jubilant

Host nation Japan became the first team from Asia to make the quarter-finals of a Rugby World Cup with a 28-21 victory over Scotland, who bowed out after the pool phase as a result. The Brave Blossoms also stunned Ireland in a 19-12 win earlier in the tournament as they topped their group.

Warm welcome for Wales

The Wales squad were serenaded by 15,000 Japanese fans at training, with supporters singing the Welsh national anthem. Thousands attended Wales’ open training as World Cup fever gripped Kitakyushu. The players arrived to fans wearing red shirts and singing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau before a rendition of hymn Calon Lan.

England stun All Blacks

England produced one of the greatest displays in World Cup history to storm past defending champions New Zealand in the semi-finals. An extraordinary match beckoned from the moment Manu Tuilagi crossed after 97 seconds, and the final scoreline of 19-7 did little justice to the domination of Eddie Jones’ men, who were superior in every single facet of the game.


End of the road for Vahaamahina

France lock Sebastien Vahaamahina announced his retirement from international rugby a day after his red card against Wales. The Clermont Auvergne forward was dismissed early in the second half for an ugly elbow on Wales’ Aaron Wainwright as his side lost a dramatic quarter-final 20-19. Vahaamahina won 46 caps for Les Bleus, with his only try coming against Wales in Japan.


England v France off

Typhoon Hagibis put paid to any chance of the Pool C decider between England and France taking place in Yokohama. The cancelled match was declared a scoreless draw, with the teams receiving two points apiece and Jones’ side finishing top of the group. New Zealand versus Italy was also among the fixtures cancelled due to the typhoon, which is tragically reported to have claimed as many as 86 lives.

Italy duo denied swansongs

Italy veterans Sergio Parisse and Leonardo Ghiraldini missed out on farewell appearances due to the cancellation of their clash with the All Blacks. Azzurri captain Parisse, a 142-Test veteran, is one of only three players to play in five World Cups and is expected to retire after the tournament. Hooker Ghiraldini, who recovered from a serious knee injury to reach Japan, was due to be given a 20-minute farewell cameo.

– with PressAssociation

RugbyPass reporter Sam Smith caught up with fans for the last time after South Africa’s win over England in the RWC final:

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