RWC 15: Your Rugby World Cup A to Z guide

Everything’s covered here - from the exploits of Diego Luis Albanese to Zinzan Brooke

The Webb Ellis Cup with a 2015 rugby ball ahead of this month’s tournament. Photograph: Dave Rogers/Getty Images)

The Webb Ellis Cup with a 2015 rugby ball ahead of this month’s tournament. Photograph: Dave Rogers/Getty Images)


A - Diego Luis ALBANESE.  He was the Argentine wing whose try condemned Ireland to defeat in a World Cup quarter-final playoff match in the 1999 World Cup. It was the only one of the game that was dominated by the place-kicking of Ireland’s David Humphreys (24) and his Argentine counterpart Gonzalo ‘Speedy’ Quesada (23). The latter got the nickname because he was painfully slow in his routine and it was this that prompted the sport’s organisers to bring the time clock for place kicks.

B - Max BRITO. It’s the most harrowing World Cup tale. He was the then 24-year-old Ivory Coast winger paralysed from the neck down after being caught at the bottom of a ruck three minutes into a 1995 World Cup match against Tonga. His wife left him and he has a troubled relationship with his sons.

In an interview with Le Monde some 12 years later he admitted: “If one day I fall seriously ill, and if I have the strength and courage to take my own life, then I will do it.”

He still lives in Bordeaux but has a different take on life. On his first trip back to the Ivory Coast in 20 years in June, he said: “I have managed to vanquish my handicap. When you accept what has happened, you can move on. When you refuse to accept it, you can never find a way through.”

C - CHAMPIONS. Only one country has won the Five/Six Nations Championship or the Tri Nations/Rugby Championship and gone on to win the World Cup. That honour falls to England who won the Six Nations and World Cup in 2003.

D - DROP GOALS. South African outhalf Jannie de Beer dropped five goals in a single World Cup match - against England in 1999. Former English pivot Jonny Wilkinson holds the overall record with 14.

E - Marc ELLIS is the player who scored the most number of tries, six, in a single World Cup match. The New Zealander managed that feat against Japan in the 1995 tournament. In 2005 he was one of a number of high profile people caught buying ecstasy tablets (“five for personal use”) from a drug dealer under surveillance by the New Zealand police in a covert operation called Aqua. He included a brief account of that setback in his autobiography Crossing The Line. He sold his juice company Charlie’s for 18 million New Zealand dollars in 2011.

F - FINGERS. Ireland tighthead Gary Halpin’s single digit, double handed gesture as he ran backwards after scoring a try in a 1995 Rugby World Cup match against New Zealand. The All Blacks won 43-19 and a young fella called Jonah Lomu got two tries.

G - GOLD watch. The controversial South African rugby union president Louis Luyt caused outrage with his speech at the closing dinner of the 1995 World Cup causing the New Zealand team and officials to walk out after he said that South Africa were the first real champions having not taken part in the 1987 and 1991 tournaments where the victories of New Zealand and Australia were devalued as a result. But in presenting Derek Bevan with a gold watch as the best official at the tournament he caused huge embarrassment for the Welsh official and for England’s Ed Morrison, who had refereed the final. Bevan had refereed the Springboks semi-final win over France where there were some controversial decisions that went the home side’s way.

H - Gordon HAMILTON. An iconic moment from an Irish perspective watching the openside flanker tear away from the Australian cover and ride Rob Egerton’s tackle to score in the 1999 World Cup quarter-final against Australia at Lansdowne Road, a match that the home side would lose to a last-gasp try. The NIFC and Ulster forward won 10 caps and this was his solitary try. He went on to become the chairman of Ulster Rugby’s Professional Game Board.

I - IKALE Tahi. It’s the nickname of the Tongan rugby team and means Sea Eagles.

J - JUAN Grobler. The American scored the only try – it was in Thomond Park – that Australia conceded en route to winning the 1999 World Cup.

K - John KIRWAN MBE. A member of the 1987 New Zealand World Cup-winning side, the highly decorated wing scored 35 tries in 63 Tests. He then switched codes, aged 30, playing rugby league for the Auckland Warriors. He holds a unique place in RWC history as the only person to play in the tournament and also coach two different countries through three competitions; Italy in 2003 and Japan at the 2007 and 2011 finals. He’s now back coaching the Blues, where he started. He suffered from depression and has been a positive advocate for mental health issues, telling his story in his autobiography, All Blacks Don’t Cry.

L - Jonah LOMU. He was professional rugby’s first modern superstar from the moment he took the 1995 Rugby World Cup by storm as a 19-year-old. He scored two tries against Ireland, another against the Scots and a whopping four against England in the semi-final. One of the enduring images is of him running over the top of England’s Mike Catt. He holds the record for the most tries at World Cups with 15. At six foot five and 19 stone, he was the poster boy for the gargantuan wings that are commonplace today. Lomu played number eight for a NZ Schools side that beat Ireland with a late penalty from Jeff Wilson before graduating to the national Sevens side in 1994.

M - MATCH-UPS. There have been three occasions when teams have met twice in the one tournament. Argentina beat France in the opening game of 2007 and again in the third-fourth place playoff. In the same tournament, South Africa hammered England in the pool stages and then 15-6 in the final. In the 2011 finals, New Zealand beat France 37-17 in the pool but only 8-7 in the final.

N - NIL points as they’d say in the Eurovision. Ten countries have failed to score a point in a World Cup match; Namibia (three times), Ivory Coast, Canada, Spain, Romania Fiji and Scotland are joined by perhaps the most surprising name on the list, the 2003 world champions, England. They lost 36-0 to South Africa at the 2007 tournament.

O - ONE-point margins. There have been eight matches in the World Cup decided by a single point and Ireland have been involved in four of them: Australia 19 Ireland 18 (1991), Ireland 24 Wales 23 (1995), Ireland 16 Argentina 15 (2003), Australia 17 Ireland 16 (2003).

P - PADDY O’Brien. The New Zealand referee, who went on to be the IRB officials’ performance manager, suffered a nightmare experience when taking charge of France’s 28-19 victory over Fiji in the 1999 World Cup, where he made several unfathomable decisions against the Islanders. The following day he summed up his performance by admitting: “I lost the plot.”

Q - QUIZ question. Did you know that no player kicked a conversion in a World Cup final between the successful efforts of Matt Burke (Australia, above) in 1999 and Francois Trinh-Duc (France) in 2011. Jonny Wilkinson (England) and Elton Flatley (Australia) missed their opportunities in 2003, while there South Africa and England were unable to manage a try in the 2007 decider.

R - This relates to the shortest tournament RECORD. On June 2nd, 1987 Scotland fullback Gavin Hastings scored 27 points against Romania, breaking the world record set by New Zealand’s Alan Hewson (1982, 26 points v Australia). The Scottish match kicked off at 1.0pm local time and with a matter of hours Hastings had lost his world and World Cup record to France’s Didier Camberabero who notched up 30 points against Zimbabwe in a match that kicked off at 3.0pm.

S - SUZIE. The mysterious waitress who was allegedly a conduit in giving the New Zealand team food poisoning before the final of the 1995 World Cup final against the host nation, South Africa. New Zealand coach Laurie Mains alleged that a waitress known as ‘Suzie’ had deliberately poisoned his players but her identity was never discovered and while there’s no doubt that the New Zealand team was struck down, several players were seen throwing up on the sideline during the game, there was no concrete proof it was intentional.

T - TONGA. They enchanted the neutrals at the 2007 World Cup, narrowly losing to the Springboks before beating the USA and Samoa. But as they were strapped for cash and bookmaker Paddy Power decided to donate a five-figure sum, the Tongans dyed their hair green for their final winner-take-all pool match with England. The IRB got wind of the matter and threatened the Tongans with repercussions. They obviously didn’t recall the French dying their hair blond and growing beards during the 1995 World Cup.

U - URUGUAY. It would be impossible to talk about ‘Los Teros’, as the national rugby team are known, without mentioning their greatest player and the oldest man to play in a Rugby World Cup match, Diego Ormaechea. The number eight was 40 years and 26 days when he played against South Africa in 1999. Ormaechea won 73 caps in a 20-year Test career and the former captain went on to coach his national side at the 2003 finals. He is a veterinary surgeon and one of the foremost authorities on thoroughbred horses in South America.

V - VILLA Park. Home to Aston Villa but also a venue for the World Cup with a capacity of 42,785. Originally built in a Victorian amusement park on the site of a Jacobean stately home, the distinctive brick façade of the Holte End is unmistakable, setting Villa Park apart from generic grounds. Athletics, cycling, boxing and rugby league have all taken place here over the years, and two rugby union touring sides have also run out onto its famous pitch. Back in 1924 a North Midlands select side were thumped 40-3 by New Zealand, and in 1953 a Midlands County XV were also dismantled, this time 18-3. Among the matches that will be played there are the games between South Africa and Samoa and the meeting of Australia and Uruguay.

W - WANNABES. That’s the term that New Zealand prime minister John Key used to describe the England rugby team when it emerged that they had commissioned a black kit which they subsequently wore for the opening game of the 2011 World Cup. Key asserted: “I think it’s a bunch of wannabes actually. There’s only one team that wears black with pride and that’s the All Blacks.”

X - X Factor. It can be provided on the pitch by talented players but New Zealand (Haka), Tonga (Sipi Tau), Samoa (Manu Siva Tau) and Fiji (Cibi was replaced in 2012 by the Bole) enjoy a dance-off before a game begins. One of the most memorable was when the All Blacks started to perform the Haka in a World Cup match against Tonga in 2003 and mid-flow Tonga responded by starting the Sipi Tau with both sides advancing to within metres of each other, rather than the traditionally sanitised stand-off where both teams stand on their respective 10 metre lines.

Y - The YOUNGEST player in the tournament history is a contentious issue. In the 1987 World Cup Tonga had an outhalf called Talia’auli Liava’a who was apparently 17 but know specific birth date was provided, just the assertion that he had been born circa 1970.

According to rugby historian and statistician John Griffiths, the honour of being the youngest to strut their stuff on a World Cup stages falls to then American Thretton Palamo who was 19 when he played against South Africa in France in 2007.

Z - ZINZAN Brooke. The New Zealand number eight scored three drop goals during his Test career but it is the one he landed from 47-metres in the 1995 World Cup semi-final against England that is perhaps the most famous.

Where did he get his kicking pedigree from? Well, he played Gaelic football alongside fellow All Black Bernie McCahill for the Auckland Gaels Club and also togged out for a GAA club in London after he had first played for Harlequins. He now runs a boutique bed and breakfast with his wife in Berkshire.

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