It is an exciting time to be a rugby union fan, and as the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France creeps ever closer, we look back at some of the most one-sided matches in the history of the men’s tournament.
There have been six instances of teams scoring 100+ points in a Rugby World Cup match, with New Zealand accounting for half of those victories. It is Australia though who hold the record for the biggest winning margin in a Rugby World Cup fixture, beating Namibia 142-0 in 2003. And that is where we begin.
Australia 142-0 Namibia – Rugby World Cup 2003, Adelaide
Namibia made their RWC debut in 1999, losing all three of their pool stage matches but scoring at least one try in each defeat and ending up with a points difference of ‘just’ -144. Four years later and the format was tweaked slightly, meaning they had four pool matches, but unfortunately the results column looked even worse. They scored fewer points in total despite playing a game more and went home with a points difference of -282, largely thanks to the Australians.
The fourth game of Namibia’s campaign saw them come up against the hosts in Adelaide and it was one-way traffic. In total, the Wallabies crossed for 22 tries, with Chris Latham (5), Lote Tuqiri (3) and Matt Giteau (3) all scoring hat-tricks. Mat Rogers converted 16 of the tries and scored a brace himself for a personal haul of 42 points, 14 more than the Welwitschias managed across the entire campaign.
It took just two minutes for Australia to get their first try, with Latham crossing to start the rout. Half-time saw 69 points amassed and after only 53 minutes the century was reached, an apt milestone at a cricket venue. It remains the biggest win in Rugby World Cup history, and Eddie Jones’ Wallabies continued their fine form as they reached the final, although Jonny Wilkinson’s famous drop-goal would deny them the Webb Ellis Cup.
New Zealand 145-17 Japan – Rugby World Cup 1995, Bloemfontein
The All Blacks can be bullies in international rugby, undeniably. In their relentless pursuit of glory there will be no mercy and anyone standing in their way had better be ready for a fight. In 1995, rugby union was on the cusp of turning professional and in New Zealand, they were more than ready for the next step. Japan, however, were still an emerging prospect at that stage and having already struggled in losses to Wales (57-10) and Ireland (50-28) they faced the daunting prospect of the Haka and the All Blacks.
Twenty-three tries were scored that day, and despite resting several players – including relentless try scorer Jonah Lomu – 21 tries were racked up by New Zealand alongside a consolation brace by Hiroyuki Kajihara for Japan. Remarkably, All Blacks kicker, Simon Culhane, slotted 20 of 21 conversions at the Free State Stadium, really compounding the result for the hapless Brave Blossom.
Marc Ellis scored six tries in the match, a record for a single RWC game that still stands today, while Eric Rush and Jeff Wilson both scored hat-tricks as well. In fact, the All Blacks’ haul of 145 points is a record in the competition’s history and had they not carelessly conceded 17 points, they would hold the record for the biggest win.
New Zealand 101-3 Italy – Rugby World Cup 1999, Huddersfield
The first Test match Huddersfield hosted was in November 1998 between England and the Netherlands, a match won by the hosts 110-0. Eleven months on from that and New Zealand followed the trend by putting up 100 points against Italy at the Rugby World Cup.
Ten different players crossed the whitewash for the All Blacks, with Jeff Wilson scoring a hat-trick and Tony Brown knocking over 11 conversions and, somewhat strangely, three penalties. Perhaps they were expecting more of a fight from the Azzurri.
The next day, England also scored a century of points in a win over Tonga, this time at Twickenham, but we’ll get to that shortly.
England 111-13 Uruguay – Rugby World Cup 2003, Brisbane
England were unstoppable in 2003 and at the peak of their powers. Jonny Wilkinson was metronomic with his left (and sometimes right) boot and the firepower throughout their squad was unmatched by anyone. They opened their Rugby World Cup campaign with an 84-6 win over debutants Georgia before brushing aside South Africa as well as Samoa, the latter actually putting up more of a fight than the Springboks.
With qualification to the quarter-finals already confirmed, Uruguay were the next victims of the English, who didn’t hold back. After a slightly scrappy start, three tries in four minutes really got the scoreboard moving and the favourites went into the break 42-6 up.
Josh Lewsey was the star of the show, crossing for five tries, a tournament record for England. In the end, it was just a footnote of their World Cup triumph. Fly-half Wilkinson, who didn’t feature against Uruguay and also didn’t read the script for the World Cup final, ultimately slotted the most famous of drop-kicks to break the hearts of the hosts, Australia.
New Zealand 108-13 Portugal – Rugby World Cup 2007, Lyon
The third entry by the All Blacks on this list of biggest Rugby World Cup wins, and the most recent, is a 108-13 victory over Portugal in 2007. Thirteen different players got their name on the score sheet for New Zealand and some impressive kicking from Nick Evans (14 of 16 conversions) was the icing on the cake as they went past the 100 mark in the last five minutes.
Portugal were playing in their first ever World Cup (the 2023 will be their second) and to their credit, scored 13 points themselves. In fact, they achieved a team ’full house’ of a try, conversion, penalty goal and drop goal.
England 101-10 Tonga – Rugby World Cup 1999, Twickenham
Now, as promised, back to October 1999… The day after New Zealand had scored 100 points against Italy, England managed the same feat by beating Tonga 101-10. Five different players scored braces that day, while Paul Grayson knocked over 12 of 13 conversions as well as four penalties to notch up an England record of 36 points in a Rugby World Cup match.
It’s one of three times England have scored 100+ points at Twickenham, also managing it against the United States in August 1999 and Romania in November 2001. Doing it in a Rugby World Cup match is always more special though and everyone there that day will remember it fondly. Except the Tonga fans, of course.
Biggest Wins in Rugby World Cup History Shortlist
Australia 142-0 Namibia, 2003
New Zealand 145-17 Japan, 1995
New Zealand 101-3 Italy, 1999
England 111-13 Uruguay, 2003
New Zealand 108-13 Portugal, 2007