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'Did you see that?' moments that have lit up the Rugby World Cup

The Rugby World Cup has grown in appeal over 32 years. Credit: AP/PA

Japan is hosting the ninth Rugby World Cup and if it’s anywhere near the level of the previous eight then fans are in for shocks a-plenty, stunning skills, bone-crunching collisions, and all the high and lows international sport can bring.

From a slow and painful birth in 1987, the initially amateur tournament has grown into a powerhouse spectacle that attracts huge audiences across the globe and - in the case of 1995 and Nelson Mandela - given us iconic moments that simply transcended rugby.

The list of stars to grace the tournaments over the past 32 years are household names: Jonah Lomu, Jonny Wilkinson, Martin Johnson, David Campese, Dan Carter, Francois Pienaar, Bryan Habana and Richie McCaw, to name but a few.

And they all feature here as we take a look at some of the most memorable moments of the eight World Cup tournaments to date.

1987: Serge's surge breaks Wallaby hearts

The All Blacks won the inaugural World Cup in 1987. Credit: AP

The first Rugby World Cup was expected to see the co-hosting Southern Hemisphere rivals (and joint favourites) New Zealand and Australia face off in the final.

But somebody forgot to tell France...

Up against the mighty Wallabies in the semi-final, Les Bleus found themselves behind on three occasions, but each time hauled back to parity.

With the clock ticking down, a penalty once again drew France level at 24-24 and extra-time seemed inevitable.

What came next remains one of the best ever World Cup tries.

Starting from deep in their own half, the French threw caution to the wind with 11 players - forwards and backs - exchanging passes in a frenetic series of plays before full-back Serge Blanco was fed on the left.

Serge Blanco evades the despairing tackle of Tom Lawton to seal a French win. Credit: AP

He surged (inevitably!) and got clear of the flailing Australian defenders to dive in the corner and secure the shock 30-24 win.

The exursions appeared to drain the French, however, as they crashed to a 29-9 defeat against the All Blacks in the cup's one-sided inaugural final.

1991: Campese's blind brilliance and Western Samoa slay the dragon

The second tournament, hosted in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France, saw Australia tipped as outright favourites.

The team's sparkling back line was led by the brilliance of backs Michael Lynagh, Tim Horan and the mercurial David Campese, all exploiting the chances created by a dominant forward pack.

Campese was undoubtedly the star of the show, never better exemplified than by his "no look" pass to Horan as the Wallabies beat the All Blacks in the semi-final.

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Campese and Australia would go on to beat England 12-6 in the final.

Another memorable moment from 1991 - and one of the biggest shocks on the world stage ever - saw Western Samoa defeat mighty Wales in their own back yard.

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The Pacific Islanders pounded the Welsh side at Cardiff Arms Park to run out 16-13 winners to silence the incredulous home crowd.

1995: Mandela's symbolic gesture and a superstar emerges

For all sorts of reasons, the 1995 World Cup was groundbreaking.

It was the first major global tournament to be staged in South Africa since the apartheid-era sporting ban had ended, the first Rugby World Cup to be held in one country and also the last of the "amateur" era.

Then it went and produced two of the most enduring spectacles ever witnessed in sport.

After South Africa secured a nail-biting 15-12 extra-time victory over the All Blacks to win the tournament, president Nelson Mandela - a little over a year after being elected leader - donned a Springboks shirt and cap to hand the Webb Ellis cup to skipper Francois Pienaar.

Nelson Mandela shakes Francois Pienaar's hand after handing over the world cup. Credit: AP

The symbolism behind a black president wearing that jersey was felt across the country and the iconic handshake made headlines around the world.

As Mandela was making history, so the 1995 tournament threw up the first global superstar of modern times: Jonah Lomu.

The giant New Zealand winger had already announced himself with a couple of tries against Ireland and one against Scotland before he cemented his place in rugby folklore with a four-try demolition of England in the semi-final.

His bulldozing first saw him brush aside two attempted tackles before running over - literally - the hapless Mike Catt, creating one of the outstanding moments of any World Cup, ever.

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The last surprise of the tournament was that South Africa somehow managed to deny Lomu - and his prolific team-mate Marc Ellis - from scoring in the final at the packed Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

But Lomu had already done enough to earn his legacy, which was tragically remembered in 2015 with his shock death at just 40.

1999: Jannie gets de Beers in, while Les Bleus refuse to lose again

A rather muddled and tortuous tournament saw play-offs introduced to decide the quarter-final line-up from six pool groups.

And although Wales officially won the right to host the Cup, an agreement was reached for other 'Home' nations, including France, to stage some fixtures.

It all added up to a rather disjointed and unsatisfactory contest - mainly remembered for the unerring goal-kicking of Jannie de Beer as the Springboks sought to defend their crown.

De Beer's boot delivered an extraordinary five penalties, five drop goals and two conversions to break England in the quarter-final.

Philippe Bernat-Salles scores against New Zealand, while Jannie de Beer wheels away against England. Credit: AP

He followed that with six penalties and a drop goal against Australia only for rival Matt Burke to out kick him with eight penalties to drive home the 27-21 extra-time defeat.

But for the game of the tournament, look no further than France once again.

Trailing New Zealand 24-10 and seemingly down and out of their semi-final clash, once more Les Bleus turned on the style to post 33 unanswered points and stun the Kiwis.

They eventually won the game 43-31.

But, as with 1987, the never-say-die semi-final efforts seemed to kill off the French ability to challenge in the showpiece showdown as they were comfortably downed 35-12 by Australia in the final.

2003: That drop goal and a baby dash across the world

For all England fans (not to mention many Scots, Welsh and Irish for altogether opposing reasons) this is the most memorable World Cup, thanks to that last-gasp drop goal from Jonny Wilkinson.

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But England may not have got to the final without a two-day, 20,000-mile round trip to the UK by linchpin Will Greenwood.

With his wife Caro suffering complications during her pregnancy, Greenwood left the squad in Australia to fly home.

The couple had sadly lost their first son, Freddie, when he was born at just 22 weeks a year earlier.

Thankfully, their second son Archie was safely delivered.

After being there for the birth, Greenwood jetted back for the quarter-final against Wales, a mad dash that left him a little low on fitness.

Will Greenwood had a dramatic tournament on and off the pitch. Credit: PA

He recalls being so jet-lagged against the Welsh that he was taking a breather out on the right wing when Jason Robinson made a trademark burst through the opposition defence.

Suddenly, the jinking Robinson had carved an opening for the exhausted Greenwood to practically flop over the line, setting up an England win.

And, as they say, the rest - and Wilkinson's boot - is history...

Jonny Wilkinson sends over the drop goal to clinch the World Cup Credit: PA

Beaten finalists Australia did grab the consolation of setting the world record try haul of 22 in their 142-0 thumping of lowly Namibia.

2007: The try that never was and the sprint that certainly was

Another World Cup billed as one country but actually spread across others, with Wales and Scotland hosting a handful of games.

The tournament itself was a pretty drab affair lit up by two moments - one that produced an exhilirating try and one of a try that never was.

England again relied on the boot of Jonny Wilkinson to somehow claw their way into the final against South Africa, who'd thumped them in the opening pool game.

In the final, Mark Cueto thought he'd scored - only for the video assistant to rule a knee had brushed the whitewashed turf on the sideline, ruling it out.

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South Africa instead became two-time winners in the 15-6 win.

That despite being stunned by the speed of one Takudzwa Ngwenya when they faced minnows USA earlier in the tournament.

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The winger was up against Bryan Habana, at the time widely regarded as the fastest man on a rugby field.

But reputations counted for nothing as Ngwenya received the ball on half-way, turned on the after burners and left Habana clawing at air as he raced past the South African and scorched his way to the try line.

2011: A 24-year wait ends and the Haka vs Sipi Tau face off

A nervous All Blacks team put aside their flair for a more practical approach in their home tournament final as they sought to avoid slipping up once again.

Having overcome fierce rivals Australia in the semis, they came up against bogey side France.

A gritty display saw them edge Les Bleus 8-7 and skipper Richie McCaw lifted the cup for the first time since 1987.

Earlier in the tournament, the All Blacks were part of one of the most spine-tingling moments in World Cup history as they faced Tonga.

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The proud Pacific Island nation has the Sipi Tau pre-match ritual, the All Blacks have the famed Haka.

When the two collided on the rugby field, the crowd in Eden Park, Auckland could not believe their luck.

Tonga, dressed in red, threw down the pre-match challenge first - and the All Blacks answered with one of the most powerful, intense Hakas ever delivered.

The hosts followed it up with a 41-10 win.

2015: Eddie Jones' Japan stuns the world after England flop

For hosts England, this was a tournament to forget on home soil, crashing out in the pool stages and seeing coach Stuart Lancaster swiftly exit stage left.

For England fans, they would get another look at their future in the shape of one Eddie Jones, whose Japan side would produce one of the biggest shocks in rugby history.

Jones was head coach of the Wallabies when defeated by England in the 2003 final, and had settled in Japan since 2009, first coaching club sides before taking on the national side in 2012.

Japan fans and players celebrated defeating South Africa in Brighton. Credit: AP

He would guide the Brave Blossoms to their most famous World Cup win as South Africa were toppled in Brighton.

A last-minute try from Karne Hesketh saw Japan clinch an improbable 34-32 win over the two-time champions.

And yet it was to be heartbreak for Japan as they became the first side to win three pool games but not make it out of the pool group having been beaten heavily by Scotland.

The tournament ultimately saw reigning champions New Zealand triumph for a third time as three tries and a near faultless kicking display from Dan Carter saw off Australia 34-17 at Twickenham.

Where can you catch the action in the 2019 World Cup?

If you can’t get to Japan (!), then ITV has full live coverage of all games across its network, chiefly on the main ITV channel but with a few games on ITV4.

Twitter account @ITVRugby will feature all the tries and key moments of live broadcast games seconds after they happen.

The Instagram and Facebook accounts will take viewers behind the scenes in Japan with regular takeovers from presenters and pundits.

Fans can watch all games live and on the go with the ITV Hub app offering short highlights of every match, exclusive interviews, top moments of the day and much more on the dedicated Rugby World Cup site: https://www.itv.com/rugbyworldcup2019