The Biggest Rugby Union World Cup Shocks


The Rugby World Cup is the highlight on the calendar for rugby union fans, and a time when we get to see the world’s best teams go up against each other.

The format of the World Cup also allows some of the smaller nations to get involved and hopefully learn from playing against the best, and of course, have a great experience.

For some of these teams, that experience goes further than playing, it extends to winning and beating some of the best players in the world. These shocks are well spoken about, and anyone who has been lucky enough to pick one out and bet on it in the past will know the odds are lucrative. We recommend William Hill for the best rugby betting odds and in the past, they will have been on the receiving end of some of these shock wins at big odds.

Here is a look back at some memorable Rugby World Cup moments, where the underdog stepped forward and one of the smaller nations gained a huge success.

Japan v South Africa (2015) & Ireland (2019)

Japan have been involved in two games that will remain in the memory for a long time, pulling off two huge Rugby World Cup shocks in recent years.

First of all, in 2015, they found themselves on the right side of a 34-32 victory over South Africa, one of the teams expected to go close to winning the Rugby World Cup that year. This was the first time that Japan had shocked the world, so came as an even bigger surprise than their other effort, and it was certainly more dramatic.

Japan had a penalty that would have tied the game right at the end, but instead of playing safe and taking a tie, Japan wanted to win. Their bravery paid off, they scored a try and the rest is history. Anyone watching will remember the game well and will know that everyone around the world, except those in South Africa, were cheering the Japanese onto victory that day.

In their second shock at the World Cup, Japan beat Ireland 19-12 in a World Cup that Japan hosted, so they did it in front of their adoring fans. There was no fluke about this performance, no last-minute winner, the Japanese team were simply better on the day, raising their game to show the fans in attendance what they were really made of.

Japan is a thriving country where rugby is certainly on the rise, and these victories in 2015 and 2019 have certainly helped that.

Tonga v France (2011)

The 2011 World Cup New Zealand will be remembered for this game. Tonga had been beaten by Canada not too long before this and looked a team in disarray. France were officially ranked the fourth-best team in the world, and although New Zealand and Australia were strongly fancied, the French were expected to be semi-finalists at least.

The game ended 19-14 to Tonga, we saw the French flair completely battered and dismantled by the physical Tongans. This was a game that the French players simply didn’t want to be a part of, the Tongans had taken the game to them, and France didn’t respond in any way.

Had Tonga not lost to Canada previously, they would have qualified for the knockout round, but France went through, improved and eventually made the final, where they were beaten.

Many of the smaller nations try to play a physical brand of rugby, even more so when coming up against the top teams, and on this occasion, it worked for Tonga.

Uruguay v Fiji (2019)

Fiji have a long and proud history with rugby union, while never making it to the top table of the sport. However, they are a dangerous opponent and one that the big teams fear. That should make them far better than Uruguay, though their meeting at the 2019 World Cup in Japan would suggest otherwise.

Uruguay hadn’t won a game at any World Cup since 2003 before this, their team consisted of eight amateur players, who needed time off work to be able to play. They defended for their lives, and still managed to concede 27 points to Fiji.

However, sloppy play from the Fijians was enough to allow Uruguay to keep crossing the line and scoring tries. Uruguay won the game 30-27, which led to wild on-pitch celebrations and a memory that their players will never forget.

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