After the magic of South Africa, the 1999 event returned to a split host format and was a disaster on so many levels. The number of participants increased to 20 but instead of splitting them into four pools of five, the organisers went with five pools of four to create the need for the truly ugly quarterfinal playoff round.
Officially hosted by Wales, the tournament was much like 1991 in that it was played across England, France and Scotland and as a consequence, was poorly supported.
The final disaster was the All Blacks who were going okay until the second half of their semifinal against France when they suddenly imploded.
It was a poor and ultimately forgettable World Cup all up.
HOW IT PLAYED OUT
The overall quality of the rugby wasn’t great. By the end of the pool rounds it was apparent that South Africa, Australia and New Zealand were a long way ahead of the best the Northern Hemisphere had to offer.
But still – despite being considerably better – none of the Southern Hemisphere’s big three had played particularly great rugby.
The All Blacks were trying to fit too many good players into a crowded backline and couldn’t quite get their flow with the brilliant fullback Christian Cullen at centre.
South Africa and Australia were defensively minded and built their success on the relentlessness of their tackling.
Somehow an entirely out of sorts French team made the last four – leaving everyone to conclude the winner of Australia versus South Africa in the other semi would be playing New Zealand in the final.
But after Australia won a dramatic contest in extra time, the All Blacks were caught cold by the greatest comeback in history and ripped apart by a French team that had nothing left once they made the final.
GAME OF THE TOURNAMENT
The semifinals were both extraordinarily good for vastly different reasons. The clash between the Wallabies and Boks went to extra time as neither side could break the other. The winning play was, of all things, a huge dropped goal by Stephen Larkham – the first and only of his career.
The other semi will forever be considered the most dramatic and unbelievable ever played. The ALL BLACKS – huge favourites – were 24-10 up at half-time against a horribly out of sorts FRENCH team. But a couple of quick drop goals, two penalties and three tries in 20 minutes by the French turned the world on its head. Something happened – they came alive and played the sort of rugby no one thought they were capable of and the All Blacks – dumbstruck – were out.
The five dropped goals scored by South Africa’s JANNIE DE BEER in the quarterfinal defeat of England.
SAMOA once again BEATING WALES at a World Cup.
LOMU smashing through England for a try in the pool game that was reminiscent of his first in the 1995 semifinal when he steamrolled Mike Catt.
ARGENTINA’S breakthrough win against Ireland to reach the last eight
The look of astonishment on every ALL BLACK face when they realised the French were destroying them.
STAY BIG: Tana Umaga rides the French tackling.
Owen Finegan in the final.
Christian Cullen takes on South Africa.
John Eales accepts Webb Ellis trophy.
Josh Kronfeld with the ball.
France pull off the impossible.