The 2003 Rugby World Cup was the fifth rugby union world cup and was won by England. Originally planned to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, all games were shifted to Australia following a contractual dispute over ground signage rights between the New Zealand Rugby Football Union and Rugby World Cup Limited. The pre-event favourites were England and New Zealand, with France, South Africa and defending champions Australia all expected to make strong showings.
|Townsville||Dairy Farmers Stadium||24,843|
|Gosford||Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium||20,119|
Australia won the right to host the World Cup in 2003 without the involvement of New Zealand after a contractual dispute over ground signage rights between the New Zealand Rugby Football Union and Rugby World Cup Limited. The overall stadium capacity was reduced from the 1999 Rugby World Cup in Wales.
The Adelaide Oval underwent a AUS$20 million redevelopment for the 2003 Rugby World Cup, financed entirely by the South Australian Cricket Association, with two new grandstands built adjacent to the Victor Richardson Gates. The Suncorp Stadium was a new AUS$280 million venue designed specifically for rugby, and was opened just before the start of the 2003 World Cup. The Central Coast Stadium was also a newly built venue, and opened in February 2000 at a cost of AUS$30 million.
Aussie Stadium was one of two venues in Sydney that for football during the 2000 Olympic Games. The other venue in Sydney was the Telstra Stadium which was the centrepiece of the 2000 Olympic Games. Formerly known as Stadium Australia, Telstra Stadium was built at a cost of over AUS$600 million and was the biggest stadium used in the 2003 World Cup. The only stadium with a retractable roof used was the Telstra Dome in Melbourne.
The following 20 teams, shown by region, qualified for the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Of the 20 teams, eight of those places were automatically filled by the teams that reached the quarter-final stages in 1999, including hosts and world champions Australia and did not have to play any qualification matches. A record 81 nations from five continents were involved in the qualification process designed to fill the remaining 12 spots, which began on 23 September, 2000.
The ARU's main promotion for the event was "Show Your True Colours". The Australian media criticised the competition early in the tournament as the smaller nations were crushed by the rugby superpowers by 60 points or more. However, some of these smaller, third tier nations, such as Japan, acquitted themselves well in their opening matches. The South Pacific island countries of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa were reported as being handicapped as several of their key players who play abroad being warned by their clubs that their contracts would not be renewed if they played in the competition.
In the event, the group stage of the competition played out largely as expected, with some tension as to whether some of the "developing" nations would overtake some of the weaker major countries for the second quarter-final qualification place in each pool — in pool A, Argentina lost to Ireland by only one point, which would otherwise have carried them into the quarter-finals in Ireland's place; similarly in pool B Fiji lost to Scotland by only two points, while Italy put up a good performance in pool D. In pool C, Samoa gave England a fright with an adventurous approach that allowed them to take an early lead. However, England's superior fitness saw them through. The big clashes ran mainly to form. A disappointing South Africa limped through the pool, eventually capitulating to England to relegate them to a difficult quarter final against New Zealand. Australia just beat Ireland to top their group, whilst Wales pushed the All Blacks to the wire, after adopting an outgoing style of play with a fringe selection. France beat Scotland to round out the quarter-finals.
The first semi-final produced an upset, when Australia defeated the hugely fancied New Zealand to become the first defending champions to reach the following championship final. The match was decided by a Stirling Mortlock interception try, after a loose pass from highly-rated All Blacks fly-half, Carlos Spencer. Unfortunately, it was probably the last match for Australian star Ben Darwin, who injured his neck in a scrum. Although Darwin never played rugby again the actions of Kees Meeuws - who immediately stopped exerting pressure when he heard the call "neck neck neck" - may well have saved his opponent's life and certainly prevented further injury. The second semi-final saw France face England. The boot of Jonny Wilkinson was the difference between the two sides, with England coming out victors.
England dominated the rest of the half, opening up a 9-5 lead after Australian indiscipline gave away several penalties, but were unable to capitalise on their dominance. They nearly crossed the line on one occasion, when the Australian defence was stretched after a mistake and Ben Kay was given a potential try-scoring pass. He fumbled the ball over the line. Television replays showed Kay's reaction in four-letter words. Towards the end of the first half, England stretched their lead further. Lawrence Dallaglio made a break and popped the ball inside to Jonny Wilkinson, who drew the defence before putting Robinson away in the corner for a try. The conversion was missed, but England went in at half time leading by 14-5.
In the second half Australia tightened their discipline, and solid play forced mistakes from England. The game swung from end to end, with both sides having try-scoring opportunities, but neither able to take them. Australia managed to get points on the board and Elton Flatley scored two penalties to make the score 14-11 to England. In the 79th minute, Australia were putting pressure on England in their half. England had a scrum and just needed to keep hold of the ball until time elapsed. Several scrums were reset after the front rows failed to engage properly and finally, the referee, André Watson, gave a controversial penalty to Australia, despite England's scrum dominating the rest of the game. Flatley converted it with the last kick of normal time to tie the score 14-14 and take it to 20 minutes' extra time.
England opened the scoring in extra time with another Wilkinson penalty, but with two and a half minutes of extra time remaining Australia were awarded another penalty, which Flatley kicked successfully. With 21 seconds left before sudden death, Wilkinson scored a drop goal to win the match and with it the world championship.
|Qualified for the quarterfinals|
|Eliminated, automatic qualification for RWC 2007|
|Team||Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Points Difference||Tries Scored||Conversions||Penalties||Drop Goals||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Player||Team||Position||Played||Tries Scored||Conversions||Penalties||Drop Goals||Total Points||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Player||Team||Position||Played||Tries||Conversions||Penalties||Drop Goals||Total Points||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Pablo Bouza||align="left"||No. 8||2||4||0||0||0||20||0||0|