|Event||2003 Rugby World Cup|
|After extra time|
|Date||22 November 2003|
|Venue||Stadium Australia, Sydney|
|Man of the Match||Jonny Wilkinson (England)|
|Referee||André Watson (South Africa)|
The 2003 Rugby World Cup Final was the final match of the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the fifth edition of the Rugby World Cup competition organised by the International Rugby Board (IRB) for national rugby union teams. The match was played at Stadium Australia, in Sydney, Australia, on 22 November 2003, and was contested by Australia, the tournament's hosts, and England. The 20-team competition consisted of a group stage, from which eight squads qualified for the knockout stage. En route to the final, Australia finished first in Pool A, with four wins and no losses or draws, after which they defeated Scotland in the quarter-final and New Zealand in the semi-final. England finished top of Pool C, and like Australia, went undefeated with four victories and no draws, before beating Wales in the quarter-final and France in the semi-final.
The final was played in front of a Rugby World Cup record crowd of 82,957 spectators, with between 22 and 30 million watching on television, and was refereed by André Watson of South Africa. Australia scored first when Lote Tuqiri scored a try in the sixth minute but Elton Flatley failed to score the resulting conversion. England's first points were through a penalty goal scored by Jonny Wilkinson on 11 minutes and Wilkinson scored a second penalty nine minutes later to put his side ahead of Australia. A third Wilkinson penalty goal after 28 minutes and a 38th-minute try by Jason Robinson which was unable to be converted by Wilkinson ensured England led Australia 14–5 at half-time. The second half saw Flatley score three penalty goals in succession and the result of which meant that regular time ended with both teams tied at 14–14 and required extra time to be played. Wilkinson scored a fourth penalty goal to put England back ahead of Australia in the second minute of extra time before Flatley equalised again with his fourth penalty goal with two minutes of extra time to play. With 28 seconds remaining, Wilkinson scored a drop goal with his right foot to secure a 20–17 victory for England.
England's win was their first Rugby World Cup title and the nation were the first from the Northern Hemisphere to win the tournament, ending 16 years of dominance by Southern Hemisphere teams. Wilkinson was named man of the match and all of the England playing and senior coaching team were honoured within the Order of the British Empire in the 2004 New Year Honours as a result of their victory. England failed to defend their trophy at the following 2007 Rugby World Cup hosted by France, losing 15–6 to South Africa in the final. Australia went on to reach the quarter-final stage of the same tournament, where England beat them.
The 2003 Rugby World Cup was the fifth edition of the Rugby World Cup, the International Rugby Board's (IRB) leading quadrennial rugby union tournament for national teams, staged in Australia from 10 October to 22 November 2003.[a] The finals featured 20 teams playing a total of 48 matches over the course of the tournament. All eight of the quarter-finalists at the 1999 Rugby World Cup automatically qualified for the tournament with the remaining twelve spots decided by qualifying rounds staged between 23 September 2000 and 27 April 2003 and involving a record 81 nations.
In the finals, the teams were divided into eight groups of four with each team playing each other once in a round-robin format. The two top teams from each group advanced to a knock-out stage. The rights to host the final were awarded to Stadium Australia, a purpose-built venue for both the 2000 Summer Olympics and the 2000 Summer Paralympics, located in Sydney's urban renewal project called Sydney Olympic Park in the mid-west subhurb of Homebush Bay. The stadium played host to six other matches in the World Cup.
Australia had won the World Cup on two previous occasions in 1991 and 1999. England had never won the tournament before but had reached the 1991 final, where they lost 12–6 to Australia. The 2003 final was the 29th match between Australia and England. Since they first played each other in 1909, England had won 16 of those meetings, including the previous four, Australia 11 and one draw in November 1997. The two teams had played each other on three previous occasions in three of the past four World Cups, and the 2003 final was their fourth meeting in the competition's history. The most recent match between both sides before the 2003 World Cup took place at the Docklands Stadium in Melbourne on 21 June 2003 and ended in a 29–14 victory for England. At the start of the tournament, England were ranked first in the inaugural list of the IRB World Rugby Rankings while Australia were ranked fourth.
Australia qualified for the tournament as defending champions, and were drawn in Pool A with Argentina, Ireland, Namibia and Romania. Their first match against Argentina on 10 October at Sydney's Stadium Australia was the tournament's opening fixture. They led 11–0 following two Elton Flatley penalties and Wendell Sailor's try on 20 minutes that Flatley failed to convert. Felipe Contepomi scored Argentina's only penalty seven minutes later before a third Flatley penalty put Australia 13–3 ahead at half-time. Flatley scored his final penalty to further extend Australia's lead before Ignacio Corleto scored a 72nd-minute try. But a Joe Roff try converted by Flatley two minutes later gave Australia a 24–8 win. Australia's second pool match was against Romania at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on 18 October. Australia won 90–8, scoring three tries by Mat Rogers, two tries each by Matt Burke, Stephen Larkham and one try each by Flatley, Stirling Mortlock, Roff, Matt Giteau, Lote Tuqiri and George Smith with Flatley adding 11 conversions and a penalty. Romania's eight points came from a Petrișor Toderașc try and a Ionuț Tofan penalty. Timed at 18 seconds, Flatley scored the earliest World Cup try.
The nation's third group fixture was against Namibia at the Adelaide Oval in Adelaide on 25 October. Australia won by a World Cup record margin of 142–0 courtesy of a tournament record 22 tries with five scored by Chris Latham, three by both Giteau and Tuqiri, two by both Rogers and Morgan Turinui and one each by David Lyons, Mortlock, Jeremy Paul, Nathan Grey, Matt Burke, John Roe as well as one penalty try with 16 conversions by Rogers.[b] Australia concluded their pool matches against Ireland on 1 November at Melbourne's Docklands Stadium. George Gregan gave Australia the lead with a drop goal by George Gregan followed by a try by Smith. Ronan O'Gara's penalty put Ireland five points behind before a Flatley penalty restored Australia's eight-point lead. A second penalty goal by O'Gara meant Australia led 11–6 at half-time. Four minutes into the second half, Flatley scored a second penalty before a Brian O'Driscoll try converted by O'Gara put Ireland a single point behind. Australia went four points ahead after Flatley's third penalty, and despite an O'Driscoll drop goal, Australia advanced to the quarter-finals 17–16 as pool winners.
Australia's quarter-final was against Scotland at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on 8 November. The two sides were tied at 9–9 at half time following three penalties scored by Flatley as well as two penalties and a drop goal by Chris Paterson. Tries by Mortlock, Gregan and Lyons each converted by Flatley with Flatley scoring his fourth penalty in the second half put Australia 24 points ahead of Scotland. A last-minute Robbie Russell try converted by Paterson gave Scotland seven extra points but Australia won the match 33–16 for a place in the semi-final. They returned to Sydney's Stadium Australia to play New Zealand in their semi-final on 15 November. Australia opened the scoring on nine minutes when Mortlock scored a try that Flatley converted. Flatley scored two penalties to increase Australia's lead before a try by New Zealand's Reuben Thorne converted by Leon MacDonald meant Australia led 13–7 at half time. In the second half, Flatley scored three more penalties and, although MacDonald scored a late penalty for New Zealand, Australia held on to win the match 22–10 and a berth in the final.
England qualified for the finals by reaching the quarter-finals of the 1999 World Cup. They were placed into Pool C alongside Georgia, Samoa, South Africa and Uruguay. England's finals campaign commenced on 12 October in the Subiaco Oval in Perth against Georgia. They secured a 84–6 victory with one try each by Mike Tindall, Matt Dawson, Steve Thompson, Neil Back, Lawrence Dallaglio, Mark Regan, Dan Luger and Jason Robinson, and two tries by Will Greenwood and Ben Cohen and conversions by either Jonny Wilkinson and Paul Grayson with Wilkinson adding two penalties. Georgia's six points were penalties by Malkhaz Urjukashvili and Paliko Jimsheladze. Six days later, England's second game was against South Africa at the Subiaco Oval. Both teams were level at 6–6 at half time courtesy of two Louis Koen penalties for South Africa and two penalties by England's Wilkinson. Two more penalties by Wilkinson followed by his converting a Greenwood try and scoring two drop goals put England top of their pool with a 25–6 win.
Their third group game was against Samoa at the Docklands Stadium in Melbourne on 26 October. Samoa went ten points ahead with a penalty and a converted try scored by Earl Va'a before England levelled with a Neil Back try converted by Wilkinson after which Wilkinson scored a penalty. Two more penalties by Va'a and a second penalty by Wilkinson meant Samoa led 16–13 at half-time. England earned a penalty try after Samoa conceded a scrum and Wilkinson converted it to return England to the lead. Va'a's two subsequent penalties put Samoa back ahead but England won 35–22 through tries by Wilkinson, Iain Balshaw and Vickery; Wilkinson converted the second try. England's final group match was against Uruguay at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on 2 November. They achieved a personal World Cup record victory of 111–13 courtesy of a nation record-equalling 17 tries scored by either Lewis Moody, Josh Lewsey, Balshaw, Andy Gomarsall, Luger, Grayson, Stuart Abbott or Robinson, which were all converted by either Grayson or Mike Catt to qualify for the quarter-finals as pool winners. Uruguay's points came from two first half Juan Menchaca penalties and a second half Pablo Lemoine try converted by Menchaca.
In the quarter-finals, England faced Wales at the Suncorp Stadium on 9 November. England scored the game's first points with a Wilkinson penalty but Wales led 10–3 at half-time following tries by Stephen Jones and Colin Charvis that Jones failed to convert. England moved 15 points clear of Wales from a Greenwood try converted by Wilkinson followed by four successive penalties by Wilkinson. Martyn Williams scored a try converted by Iestyn Harris to put Wales eight points behind before a last-minute Wilkinson drop goal advanced England to the semi-finals 28–17. England then faced France in the semi-finals in wet and cold conditions at Stadium Australia on 16 November. Wilkinson gave England the lead with a ninth-minute penalty before a England line-out error allowed Serge Betsen to score a try which was converted by Frédéric Michalak, putting France 7–3 ahead. England retook the lead when Wilkinson scored two drop goals and two penalties to give the nation a 12–7 lead at half-time. In the second half, Wilkinson scored a second drop goal and three more penalties to put England through to the final with a 24–7 victory.
André Watson, a 45-year-old retired civil engineer and school rugby fly-half from South Africa, was selected to be the referee for the final. He had earlier refereed two matches at the 2003 World Cup, the New Zealand–Wales and Argentina–Ireland matches in the group stage. Watson also took charge of the 1999 Rugby World Cup Final and of multiple Currie Cup and Super 12 finals. He was assisted by Paddy O'Brien and Paul Honiss of New Zealand, who were both named as the two touch judges. Joël Jutge and Alain Rolland of France and Ireland was named as the fourth and fifth officials, respectively, and South Africa's Jonathan Kaplan was the television match official. Tickets for the final were sold out on 22 August 2003. The IRB returned an additional 2,000 tickets for the match to the Australian Rugby Union that it sold on to the public from 13 November. Several Australian and British bookmakers installed England as the favourites to win the match.
A closing ceremony was held before the match and it began with the release of 18 of 20 inflatable cylindrical figures representing the 20 qualifying teams placed in a circle outside the boundary of the pitch. Kate Ceberano performed the official song of the competition True Colours by Cyndi Lauper after the tournament organisers had asked her to replace Kasey Chambers, who had withdrawn and went on a career hiatus. Three pre-adolescent children from the Sydney Children's Choir performed triple solos of the rugby anthem World in Union as part of the Rugby World Choir. The Australian national anthem Advance Australia Fair was performed by singer Alice Girle and performing arts student Akos Miszlai, before the English national anthem God Save the Queen was played by Rugby World Choir members Belinda Evans and James Laing.
The match was broadcast live on television by the Seven Network in Australia, Sportsnet in Canada, and on both ITV1 and S4C in the United Kingdom. The Theatre Broadcasting System of the Department of Defence carried coverage of the final for Australian troops stationed in Baghdad. Radio coverage was carried by ABC Radio in Australia and by BBC Radio 5 Live in the United Kingdom. Live sites were set up across Australia and London with giant screens erected in certain locations to allow the public to observe the final. New South Wales Police made adjustments to its security measures to stop pitch invasions by spectators during the fixture. The British government was represented at the match by Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, in lieu of Richard Caborn, the Sports Minister, who was required to attend a House of Commons vote on foundation hospitals.
Both of the nations' coaches released their starting line-ups on 19 November. Australia were without prop Ben Darwin who sustained a prolapsed disc in his neck that made contact with his spinal cord and caused a neck injury during a scrum in the team's semi-final with New Zealand. Coach Eddie Jones replaced Darwin with Al Baxter at the tight head prop position. Jones also made Matt Dunning a prop reserve and utility back Giteau replaced Grey as a substitute after Giteau recovered from an ankle injury he picked up in Australia's quarter-final with Scotland. England coach Clive Woodward made one change to his side that began their semi-final against France; Tindall took the place of Catt, who was made a substitute, in order to reduce Mortlock's impact of passing the defence of the opposition, indicating that England wanted to pass more freely and to stop them relying on Catt's and Wilkinson's dual kicking strategy. The final was the last time captain Martin Johnson and Back represented England at international level because both players retired from the team the following year.
Low cloud cover and sporadic torrential rain fell in Sydney on the morning of the match but it tapered off to a drizzle, making the pitch damp. The match began before a World Cup record crowd of 82,957 spectators, at 20:00 local time with Wilkinson kicking the ball into Australia's right-hand side defence and it was collected by Nathan Sharpe. On two minutes, Rogers threw to Tuqiri that threatened to overlap but went into touch. A touch judge noticed that Woodman's right fist went outside at the back of a maul and Watson reprimanded Woodman. A penalty in England's 10 yd (9.1 m) line was awarded to Australia, but the team felt it was too far for each of their players and decided that Rogers should kick into touch. Australia then earned a free kick after England had too many players in a line-out but opted for a scrum. Gregan passed the ball to Larkham, whose high shot was directed from the right to the left. The taller Tuqiri jumped higher than the shorter Robinson, and gathered the ball to score a try in the corner after running a short distance. Flatley's attempt to convert the try from the right-hand touchline struck the inside of the left-hand post and Australia still led 5–0. Robinson passed some Australian players, and following several phases, Lyons committed an infraction in an tackle, earning England a penalty kick. Wilkinson made it 5–3 after 11 minutes by scoring the penalty from 47 m (154 ft). Australia got a penalty kick two minutes later when Back held onto the ball too long in an line-out. England obtained some possession with few breaks made by Lewsey but both teams had difficulty handing the ball, earning a caution from Watson.
On 20 minutes, England got a penalty kick when Cohen was tackled by Larkham without holding the ball. Larkham sustained a gaping lip wound for which he got medical attention and Giteau was brought on as a blood replacement. Wilkinson successfully scored the penalty from outside the Australia half to put England 6–5 ahead. On 23 minutes, Wilkinson failed to score a drop goal with his left foot from a long distance because the shot went wide. Two minutes later, Ben Kay gathered the ball after Richard Hill kicked it through Australia's defence when Giteau dropped it because Wilkinson tackled Giteau; Kay failed to score a try because he was tackled. Wilkinson received a minor shoulder injury during the tackle with Giteau. In the 28th minute, England got another penalty kick after winning a scrum following a Flatley tackle and the team moving up the pitch. Wilkinson scored a third penalty goal from an narrow angle to further extend England's lead to four points. Two minutes later, Woodman was penalised for incorrectly binding during a scrum, earning Australia a penalty. Flatley failed to score the penalty goal from the left of England's 10 m (33 ft) line. Larkham returned to the pitch after 31 minutes when the medical treatment to part of his face was done. Seven minutes later, Dallaglio passed through Australia's defence in the middle of the pitch and passed the ball to Wilkinson, who briefly ran with it before passing from long distance to the approaching Robinson on his left. Robinson passed Sailor and scored a try in the left-hand corner. Wilkinson failed to convert the try from nearly out on the touchline, and with no further points scored, England ended the first half leading 14–5.
Flatley kicked off the second half of the match by kicking deep into the England half. England began to commit a few errors when in a scrum or a line out. Seven minutes later, England had made two errors in succession from consecutive line-outs and Australia earned a penalty kick when Dallaglio was penalised for being offside when he thought it was open play but Watson decided that a ruck was being formed. Flatley successfully scored the penalty from inside the Australia half to put Australia three points behind. Not long after, Australia made a change when David Giffin came on in place of Sharpe. In the 53rd minute, Dawson and Lewsey made an illegal cross that caused an accidental obstruction, giving Australia a penalty kick inside the England 10 m (33 ft) line. Flatley kicked for goal from a position where he was able to score a try but he failed to score the penalty. After 56 minutes, Australia put Larkham onto the pitch in lieu of Giteau as a blood replacement because Larkham had blood pouring from his mouth due to a deep cut. The team then made a double substitution, when it brought on Paul for Brendan Cannon and Matt Cockbain for Lyons on 57 minutes. On 58 minutes, Australia earned a penalty after Vickery was penalised for incorrectly binding in a scrum. Rogers failed to score the goal. The rain began to increase in intensity and both sides began making more errors in their play.
In the 61st minute, Vickery was informed that he had illegally handled and played the ball on the floor while in a rack, giving a penalty kick to Australia. Flatley was the player to take the penalty in front of the posts from the 10 m (33 ft) line which he scored to put Australia three points behind England. England then committed three consecutive infractions during scrums according to Watson. On 68 minutes, a shot from Tindall spun to the right and Greenwood gathered the ball. Greenwood was prevented from scoring a try by a left-footed tackle to his legs from Rogers, which brought the ball into touch just before the try line. After 71 minutes, Australia brought on Roff to replace Sailor. After England secured a line-out a minute later, Lewsey got ahold of the ball and passed it to Wilkinson, whose second attempt to score a drop goal went wide of the left-hand post. In the 79th minute, Catt was brought on for an injured Tindall. With 90 seconds of regular time remaining, Watson penalised England for collapsing a scrum and Woodman not engaging in their 22 m (72 ft) line on the right-hand side of the pitch because Woodman felt Australia engaged too early, awarding a penalty kick to Australia. Flatley scored the penalty from 15 m (49 ft) out on the right of the England half with ten seconds left and extra time had to be played with both teams on 14 points apiece.
A minute into extra time, England substituted Vickery for Leonard. England were awarded a penalty kick a minute later, when a line-out Johnson was pulled down by Justin Harrison. Wilkinson opted to take the penalty, and kicked a shot from 44 m (144 ft) out wide on the right that went in between the posts and put England back in the lead. England replaced Tindall with Catt in the 86th minute. Larkham came off the pitch once again for Giteau a minute later because he was still bleeding and an injured-looking Lewsey was substituted for Balshaw. Three minutes later, Catt attempted to score a drop goal but Phil Waugh stopped him with a knock-on. Wilkinson also tried to score a drop goal a minute later but the shot went wide. This concluded the first half of extra time with England leading Australia 17–14.
On 92 minutes, Australia replaced Young with Dunning and England substituted Moody for Hill, who had cramp, a minute later. Tuqiri was prevented from a scoring a try when Cohen and Robinson was tackled from 5 m (16 ft) three minutes later, and Wilkinson held the ball, giving Australia a line-out. England got a penalty line-out in the 96th minute when Rogers held onto the ball during a tackle. Dallaglio was penalised from coming in on the side and handling the ball in the ruck, earning Australia a penalty kick on 97 minutes. Flatley scored the penalty from outside the England area to level the score at 17–17 and potentially require a match-ending penalty shootout. With more than a minute remaining, England won a line-out and moved towards Australia's area three times. Dawson passed the ball to Wilkinson, who was unable to be stopped by Gregan and scored a drop goal with his right foot from 30 m (98 ft) out with 28 seconds left to put England back ahead. No further points were scored and Watson blew the final whistle with England winning the match 20–17 and their first Rugby World Cup.
|Try: Tuqiri 6' m
Pen: Flatley 47', 61', 80', 97'
|Report||Try: Robinson 38' m|
Pen: Wilkinson 11', 20', 28', 82'
Drop: Wilkinson 100'
Man of the Match:
England became the first nation from the Northern Hemisphere to win the Rugby World Cup, ending 16 years of Southern Hemisphere dominance in the competition. IRB chairman Syd Millar presented the runners-up medals to the losing Australian side. The victorious England team received their winning medals from John Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia, before Johnson held aloft the Webb Ellis Cup presented to him by Howard. Afterwards, the England team took a lap of honour around the stadium. Wilkinson was named man of the match, and was voted the first rugby recipient of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, with Johnson placing second. Every member of England's playing and senior coaching staff were honoured within the Order of the British Empire in the 2004 New Year Honours. In May 2004, the England squad were named the winners of the Laureus World Sports Award for Team of the Year for their triumph.
Woodward commented that the victory was "very important and it is just a big thank you to the Premiership clubs and the Rugby Football Union. We have just put the icing on the cake and we want to keep this going." His counterpart Jones conceded that the better side won the final, adding: "You slug it out for 100 minutes and get beaten in the 99th – yeah, that would qualify as a photo finish. England were outstanding and are the best team in the world by one minute." Wilkinson explained why he scored a drop final in the final minute of the match: "I didn’t want the game to go to a drop-goal competition. I just wanted to win so much for the other guys. I had to make sure I hit the target when the chance came my way." In an 2019 interview with BBC Sport, he described the goal as "not a memory that I treasure because I don't have much memory of it – but just an experience which gave me a glimpse of life a little bit outside the boundaries of what I thought was possible – something bigger." Cannon described the drop goal as "like witnessing a car accident, you know it's about to happen but you don't want it to happen."
Dawson said the win was "very surreal" after England's come back from being eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the 1999 tournament. Greenwood said that during the match and when he received his World Cup winners medal, he thought about his infant child Freddie who died shortly after his birth in 2002. Gregan said that while the Australian team were disappointed to lose they had "a good deal of pride there as well. It was a gutsy effort, coming down to the last play of the game. My team didn't leave anything out so I couldn't ask for anything more." Injured prop Darwin said he was frustrated to not play in the final. Flatley talked about the pressure he felt when scoring the two penalty goals that meant the match would end in extra time: "I had my hands together praying and I didn't see either kick. I had my eyes closed. It was scary pressure. There wasn't a great deal going on in my head . . . I just had to knock them over." Rogers blamed himself for the loss because he had been unable to clear the ball in the final minute but Flatley told Rogers he was not to blame, saying: "A million things go on and in a game like that you can't really put it down to one thing. "It wasn't like I was about to slit my wrists or anything, but I was hoping to kick it up a bit further and make it even harder for them to score."
Watson's referring was criticised by both the media and individuals in the rugby world. Woodward's assistant Andy Robinson enquired to Watson during the post-match celebrations about why England were penalised for several scrum infringements and Robinson was told to review the video footage. Watson defended his decisions, saying: "I was satisfied with my handling of the match and that includes the scrum infringements .... I ref what I see and nothing else and I was happy with my performance. If there were any problems, they will have been noted by the IRB and I have not had any comebacks from them."
The team departed Sydney on the evening of 24 November and arrived at Heathrow Airport and were greeted by around 8,000 to 10,000 people early the next morning. Johnson, holding the trophy, was the first player to appear, which resulted in a celebration of singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot". A national day of celebration was organised by the Rugby Football Union on 8 December and witnessed by almost a million people. The team paraded in open-top buses from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square. Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, awarded the whole squad the freedom of Greater London. The English squad then went on to meet the Queen and other senior members of the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace, followed by a reception at 10 Downing Street with Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister.
The match's viewership on ITV1 peaked overnight at around 14.5 million (an 82 per cent of the British viewership share) between 11.20 am and 11.25 am and averaged 12.3 million (a 77 per cent viewing share) – it received a final peak rating of 15 million viewers. This was the highest viewership in the United Kingdom of a rugby union match since the 1991 Rugby World Cup Final was watched by an average of 13.6 million. The Seven Network's coverage of the final drew an nationwide average of four million viewers in Australia and peaked at a total of 4.3 million viewers, making it the most watched football game in the history of Australian television. Global audience figures for the 2003 Rugby World Cup final totalled between 22 and 30 million.
At the following World Cup hosted by France in 2007, England reached the final for the third time in the tournament's history, but were defeated by South Africa 15–6. Australia advanced from their group as winners, before being knocked out at the quarter-final stage by England.