On Saturday, rugby will witness a different world champion for the first time since 2011. England dethroned the All Blacks with a stunning display in the semi-final and will take on South Africa in a quest to win their second world title. New Zealand, who have won the tournament three times, will be mere spectators on Saturday in Japan.
There have been eight Rugby World Cup Finals since the tournament began in 1987, with New Zealand winning three as mentioned above, Australia and South Africa two each and England the only champion from the northern hemisphere.
As England and South Africa prepare to write a new chapter in the history of the Webb Ellis Cup on Saturday, here is a look back at the previous finals in the tournament.
1987: Unbeatable All Blacks
New Zealand were unstoppable at home in the inaugural Rugby World Cup, sweeping all before them, including France in the final, where tries from the legendary flanker Michael Jones, wing John Kirwan and captain David Kirk sealed a comfortable 29-9 victory in Auckland.
The All Blacks were never in danger of losing the game and only a late try by Pierre Berbizier gave the score some respectability for the French, who had excelled in knocking out Australia in the semi-final.
It set New Zealand on their way to becoming the most successful World Cup team so far, with three trophies to their name. France, on the other hand, have the unwanted record of appearing in three finals but never lifting the cup.
1991: Aussies break England hearts at home
Hosts England hoped home advantage would carry them to a first Webb Ellis Cup but Australia snatched the trophy from them at their Twickenham HQ.
Australia’s outspoken wing David Campese had goaded England in the run-up, criticising them for kicking too much and not using their undoubted wide talents of centre Jeremy Guscott and winger Rory Underwood.
Perhaps stung by this, England played a more expansive game in the final but to little avail. The only try in the match was from an Australian line-out catch and drive, as Tony Daly bundled over.
England argued they should have had a penalty try when Campese deliberately knocked the ball on to prevent a pass to Underwood who would have had a clear run to the line.
In the end, Australia ran out 12-6 winners. Campese was joint top try-scorer in the tournament with six and was widely considered the best world’s best player.
1995: Rainbow Nation victorious
The 1995 final culminated in one of the most famous images in sport as South African President Nelson Mandela, dressed in a Springbok jersey, presented the Webb Ellis Cup to captain Francois Pienaar.
Playing the almighty All Blacks in the final, the Springboks managed to double-team star wing Jonah Lomu and it was a kick-dominated match with fly-halves Joel Stransky for South Africa and Andrew Mehrtens for New Zealand trading penalties and drop goals.
The match ended 9-9, resulting in the tournament’s first-ever extra time. Stransky and Mehrtens again slotted penalties but it was the Springboks that had the final say with a drop goal deep into extra time that sent the Rainbow Nation into raptures.
It was South Africa’s emergence on the international stage after apartheid, and Mandela’s enthusiastic endorsement of a game traditionally dominated by white Afrikaners was seen as a powerful symbol of unity that transcended sport.
1999: Wallabies edge Les Bleus
Never viewed as one of the classic finals, the game was ultimately won from the boot of Australian fullback Matt Burke, who kicked seven penalties and two conversions in a 35-12 win over France at a damp Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Tries by wing Ben Tune and replacement Owen Finegan put some gloss on the Wallaby win after a contest that was still in the balance at 18-12 heading into the final quarter.
2003: Jonny’s drop goal
Every England rugby fan knows the sequence. Deep into extra-time in Sydney, scrum-half Matt Dawson makes a darting run, the ball is recycled before Dawson flings the ball out to Jonny Wilkinson whose wrong-footed drop goal wins the Webb Ellis Cup after a thrilling final.
Those three points, scored with 26 seconds left on the clock, gave England a 20-17 win, their only Rugby World Cup title and made them the tournament’s only northern hemisphere champions – ironically against a team led by their current coach Eddie Jones.
2007: Montgomery’s boot for the Springboks
Springbok fullback Percy Montgomery outkicked Wilkinson to secure a try-less 15-6 victory in the Stade de France in Paris for South Africa’s second Webb Ellis Cup, 12 years after their famous 1995 win.
England fans still claim that wing Mark Cueto should have been awarded a try early in the second half that would have given them the lead. However, the Television Match Official ruled that Cueto’s left boot had grazed the touchline and disallowed it.
The English had long periods of possession towards the end and battered the Springbok defences, but South Africa held firm.
2011: All Blacks triumph again
France fell agonisingly short again in the 2011 final, a nailbiting affair which the All Blacks shaded 8-7 at their Eden Park fortress in Auckland.
New Zealand took the lead after 15 minutes when prop Tony Woodcock barged his way over from a line-out move. Replacement fly-half Stephen Donald added a penalty just after half-time before the French fought back.
Captain Thierry Dusautoir burst through All Black defences for a converted try, leaving the game on a knife-edge at 8-7 with more than half-an-hour to play. But Francois Trinh-Duc missed a long-range penalty on 65 minutes and New Zealand clung on for their second title.
2015: Carter crowned
After a long period of dominance led by talismanic fly-half Dan Carter, the All Blacks went into the 2015 Rugby World Cup final against Australia as hot favourites and did not disappoint.
Tries either side of half-time from Nehe Milner-Skudder and a brilliant solo effort from centre Ma’a Nonu killed off Wallaby resistance and Carter kicked four penalties and a drop goal to take his personal haul to 19 points.
The 34-17 win at Twickenham meant New Zealand were the only team ever to defend the Webb Ellis Cup, and made them the first three-time champions.