Five of the best matches from the Rugby World Cup

England's Jonny Wilkinson scores the winning drop goal despite the attention of Australia's Phil Waugh during the final of the Rugby World Cup in Sydney, in 2003.  (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
England's Jonny Wilkinson scores the winning drop goal despite the attention of Australia's Phil Waugh during the final of the Rugby World Cup in Sydney, in 2003. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
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With the Rugby World Cup just days away, we look back on five of the best games in the previous seven tournaments.

England 20 Australia 17 (2003 final)

Despite a number of great games down the years, the World Cup had failed to provide a fitting final, with matches either too one-sided or simply insipid affairs. England and Australia changed all that 12 years ago in a thrilling encounter at Sydney’s Telstra Dome. The heart-stopping Jonny Wilkinson drop goal just 26 seconds from time was merely the icing on the cake of what was a titanic struggle from the moment Lote Tuqiri gathered a crossfield kick to touch down for Australia. England responded like champions, Jason Robinson finishing a flowing move in the corner. Wilkinson and Elton Flatley then traded penalty after penalty, the latter slotting a controversial last-gasp effort to take the game to extra-time. The rest is history.

Ireland 10 Wales 22 (2011 quarter-final)

Wales brilliantly roared into the World Cup semi-finals after an epic clash in Wellington against Six Nations rivals Ireland that showcased European rugby at its finest. A magnificent encounter, played with astonishing speed and lung-busting commitment, saw Wales triumph and clinch a semi-final place for the first time since 1987. Wales’ bold approach was rewarded through tries for wing Shane Williams, scrum-half Mike Phillips and centre Jonathan Davies. And Ireland, pool stage conquerors of Australia, gained little change from a colossal Welsh defence.

France 30 Australia 24 (1987 semi-final)

France’s knack of pulling off incredible World Cup fightbacks began at the very first tournament when they came from behind three times to beat favourites Australia in Sydney. With the scores level at 24-24, extra-time appeared inevitable until France scored arguably the finest try in World Cup history. Starting deep within their half, they ran the ball through the hands of 11 players before Serge Blanco powered over in the corner. Australia had earlier led 9-0 and 15-12 but fly-half Michael Lynagh missed kickable chances to boot them further in front.

France 43 New Zealand 31 (1999 semi-final)

The greatest World Cup game and one of the best rugby matches of all time. Even now, it almost defies belief how France managed to come back from 24-10 down against a New Zealand side that had swept all before them. Victory was inspired by fly-half Christophe Lamaison, only in the side due to an injury to Thomas Castaignede, and he scored the first try. However, Jonah Lomu twice powered over before half-time as the All Blacks assumed total command. Two drop goals and two penalties from Lamaison cut the deficit before France unleashed their full array of attacking skills to score three breathtaking tries and stun New Zealand into submission.

New Zealand 18 France 20 (2007 quarter-final)

Les Bleus stunned New Zealand again in an enthralling contest which had shades of the 1999 semi-final. The All Blacks, installed as 1-7 favourites to send the hosts crashing out of their own tournament, led 13-0 but France completed a remarkable second-half comeback when Yannick Jauzion finished a Frederic Michalak break, and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde converted to win the match. It meant the last four was without the All Blacks and Wallabies for the first time in World Cup history.