Although the England Rugby Union team have had a reasonable amount of success on the biggest stage in the 21st century, their performance in the last World Cup will have left the side looking for redemption this year in Japan.
Here’s how England have performed in the previous five tournaments prior to this year’s World Cup in the Asian country.
1999 – Quarter Finals
Location: Wales and various other nations
England were drawn in a group with New Zealand, Tonga and Italy in the 1999 tournament. Although Wales were chosen as the official host of this World Cup, venues in England, France, Ireland and Scotland also hosted games. England had the home advantage in the group stages, playing all three of these games at Twickenham.
Despite losing their second game against New Zealand, England comfortably won their other two games which was enough to take them in to second place. Their 101-10 victory over Tonga in the final group game was particularly impressive. Another victory at Twickenham in the quarter final playoffs against Fiji took them to the knockout stages.
However, the side didn’t get past the quarter finals stage after losing to South Africa in Paris at the Stade De France. Was the lack of home advantage crucial in this match?
2003 – Winners
England started the 2003 tournament perfectly with four wins out of four in Pool C. Arguably, the most impressive win during the group stages came against South Africa who were the best team in the group along with the team in white.
The fact that England only conceded six points and no tries against a strong South Africa side in their 25-6 win must have given them a lot of confidence.
Two sides in the UK then went head to head for a spot in the last four. England vs Wales, the big one. Numerous penalties from Jonny Wilkinson proved to be the difference between the two sides after a strong first half performance from Wales.
He would also prove to be the difference in both the semi final and the final. A mixture of drop goals and penalties in the semis took England to a 24-7 victory over France in Sydney. Stadium Australia in Sydney would also be the host of the final.
Australia had the chance to win the World Cup on home turf. With the game tied at 17-7 at the end of the 80 minutes, Australia and England went to extra time. A drop goal from Jonny Wilkinson won the World Cup take the greatest prize in rugby back to England.
2007 – Runners Up
England won three of their four games in the group, claiming victories against Tonga, Samoa and the United States. Their only loss came against eventual winners South Africa. The 36-0 defeat did not damage England too much, as they managed to reach the final of the World Cup once again.
On their route to the final, they beat Australia in the quarters (who they beat in the 2003 final) and France in the semi finals again. Six penalties in the quarter finals secured a narrow 12-10 win against Australia.
England fell at the final hurdle in their bid to retain the World Cup, with their lack of tries costing them against South Africa. The 15-6 scoreline in favour of South Africa was heartbreaking for those English fans who travelled to France to see the final.
2011 – Quarter Finals
Location: New Zealand
There were promising signs in the 2011 World Cup as they looked to go one better in New Zealand after their disappointment in France. After winning all four of their games in Pool B, England were very much in the ascendancy going in to the knockout stages.
Although they were already favourites against Argentina, Georgia, Romania and Scotland, the manner in which they dispatched of some of these teams was emphatic. The 67-3 win over Romania was the pick of the bunch.
Despite this, England failed to do as well in Oceania in 2011 tournament compared to the 2003 masterclass, with hosts New Zealand going on to win the World Cup on home soil. England lost 19-12 against France at the quarter finals stage and it wouldn’t get any better for them at the next tournament four years later.
2015 – Group Stage
In fairness to England, they were drawn in a very tough group with Australia and Wales for the 2015 World Cup. However, this was still a great chance for England on home turf to bring the World Cup back to this country and win the tournament for the first time since 2003.
England’s 28-25 loss against Wales proved to be crucial, with Warren Gatland’s team finishing just two points above England in second place at the end of the group stage. This made England’s wins against Fiji and Uruguay irrelevant.
Will England do any better in 2019? Let’s hope so. France and Argentina will be tough opponents in Pool C. However, England will be the favourites to qualify for the knockout stages.