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The nations with the most RWC success: A new leader after 2023 tournament


Most Rugby World Cups

Which nation has won the most Rugby World Cups? Let’s re-live all of them, through the lense of world rugby’s most successful nations.

The thing that rugby union has over its nemesis rugby league is its international appeal, with the cherry on top being the World Cup.

It’s by far the pinnacle of the sport; every four years, 20 nations from around the world compete for the Webb-Ellis Cup aloft.

Now with close to ten tournaments conducted since its inception in 1987, many dreams of holding the trophy have come true.

But which nation has dreamt the biggest and been crowned winners the most number of times?

Wallabies World Cup 1999, most Rugby World Cups
The Wallabies won it in 1999, but who has the most Rugby World Cups?

Who has won the most rugby world cups?

South Africa — 4

Through the 2010s, the All Blacks rose to be crowned the world’s best on multiple occasions, with the Springboks nipping at their heels the entire time.

Following the 2019 World Cup in Japan, South Africa were able to go level with New Zealand on the most Rugby World Cup wins and, wouldn’t you know it, they met in the 2023 Final as well. The Springboks emerged victorious, moving into outright first in the race.

Obviously, the Wallabies and their rivals England have had their time in the sun as well. But what’s their success look like?

Well given we’re up to another World Cup cycle, it’s time to reflect on the past and see where things are poised ahead of France 2023.

Rugby World Cup 2023, most rugby world cups
The 2023 Rugby World Cup was a memorable one… but not so much for the Aussies.

South Africa – 4

2023: South Africa 12 – 11 New Zealand

In one of the lowest-scoring finals we’ve ever seen, South Africa snuck home. There was major controversy midway through the contest, when New Zealand captain Sam Cane became the first player to be red carded in a RWC Final.

Handre Pollard slotted four penalty goals, proving to be enough points in the end, despite the side not even scoring a try.

Jordie Barrett missed a long-range penalty attempt that would’ve put the All Blacks in front, after Cheslin Kolbe was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on. But ultimately, the Springboks held on.

2019: South Africa 32-12 England | in Japan

Three World Cups later and the Springboks were back facing England in the Final, with the same outcome coming to fruition. South Africa in doing so tied with New Zealand for the most Rugby World Cups.

2007: South Africa 15-6 England | in France

For their second title, the Springboks stopped the English from becoming the first team to win back-to-back World Cups by kicking their way to victory, slotting five penalties in a try-less affair.

1995: South Africa 15-12 New Zealand | in South Africa

The Springboks’ first taste of World Cup glory was in the most dramatic fashion, defeating the All Blacks by a penalty goal in the first ever extra-time in a Final, in front of almost 60,000 adoring in fans in Johannesburg.

New Zealand – 3

1987: New Zealand 29-9 France | in New Zealand

In front of a home capacity crowd at Eden Park, the All Blacks secured the inaugural World Cup off the back of a huge second half performance in the Final.

2011: New Zealand 8-7 France | in New Zealand

The hoodoo was ended. Although they had to wait to wait 24 years to claim their second World Cup, it had a very similar feel to their first — beating France and keeping them to single digits at Eden Park.

2015: New Zealand 34-17 Australia | in England

This victory was particularly sweet for the All Blacks, considering it was their first World Cup trophy won on foreign soil and meant maintaining dominance over the Wallabies (who at the time they had defeated 13 straight times in the Bledisloe Cup, a streak that still stands).

The William Webb Ellis trophy, which nation has won the most Rugby World Cups?
What goes on the line: The William Webb Ellis Cup | Most Rugby World Cups

Australia – 2

1991: Australia 12-6 England | the UK

In the second edition of the Rugby World Cup, the Wallabies tasted success by defeating their arch rivals England on their home turf.

1999: Australia 35-12 France | in Wales

Still to this day, Australia’s performance in the 1999 Final is the largest winning margin in World Cup Final history, with Wallabies legend John Eales lifting the Webb-Ellis trophy to give Australia the most Rugby World Cups at that time.

England – 1

2003: England 20-17 Australia | in Sydney, Australia

England only had to wait 12 years to return the favour to Australia, defeating them on enemy territory — exacting what the Wallabies did in 1991.

It ended with a right-footed field goal that stunned a nation.

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