1991: Ridiculously great
All of them were by Campese whose contribution to Australia's victory was enormous. When the Wallaby captain, Nick Farr-Jones, received the trophy, he and Campese held it aloft together, each with a handle as was fitting.
As in 1987, South Africa did not take part though there were some South Africans who annoyed home fans by going out onto Twickenham saying that the Springboks were the world champions. After all there had been radical political changes and South Africa was to host the 1995 World Cup, but clear changes had been too late for organisers.
The All Blacks came as titleholders and favourites and got as far as the semifinals. But there were loggerheads in the New Zealand camp, started by two disparate coaches – Alex Wyllie and John Hart. And it was the Australians who stole the hearts of the watchers – and then Ireland nearly stole the Australians' thunder but they started celebrating five minutes too early.
That match between the Wallabies and the Irish was undoubtedly the best match of the tournament – that and the astonishing semifinal between the Wallabies and the All Blacks.
The other bright team was Western Samoa, as it was then called. They beat Wales, provoking the famous Welsh comment 'Thank goodness we were not playing the whole of Samoa' and Argentina before losing to Scotland in the quarterfinal. Scotland got there by beating the unpredictable Irish. Ireland may have been unpredictable, but New Zealand and England were not. New Zealand were dull, England drab.
Australia were not drab at Lansdowne Road in happy Dublin and Campese scintillating. At half-time the score was 6-6, after Campese had scored a try in the days of four-point tries and Ralph Keyes kicked two goals. Then Campese scored another try. Michael Lynagh converted both and then kicked a penalty goal and Australia led 15-12 with five minutes to go. The suddenly Ireland broke out and attacked, setting flank Gordon Hamilton free on the left. He ran for glory and the whole of Ireland, North and South, roared him on. Campese chased but, loud and raucous alleluias, Hamilton scored. 16-15 to Ireland. Keyes converted. 18-16 to Ireland. The whole of Ireland, even the players it seems, were celebrating the victory when Lynagh kicked off and Australia got possession and attacked till Lynagh forced his way over in the right corner. 19-18, which was the score when Jim Fleming blew the final whistle on a thrilling match.
In the other quarters, England had beaten France, Scotland Western Samoa and New Zealand Canada. France's defeat was aggravated by the behaviour of their coach, Daniel Dubroca, who grabbed referee Dave Bishop by the throat after the match and told him he was a cheat, thus ending his career as France's coach.
England bored Scotland 9-6 in the one semifinal and the other was back at Lansdowne Road where Campese and some other Aussies played the lacklustre All Blacks. Two tries singled Campese out as the star of the rugby world.
First, going left, he raced low across the face of the whole New Zealand backline and scored. Then he attacked down the right near the right touchline with desperate All Blacks in his face when, looking straight at them, he flicked the ball back over his shoulder to Timmy Horan who scored. A conversion and a penalty by Michael Lynagh and the Wallabies led 13-0 at the break. It was enough to win, as it turned out, as all the All Blacks could muster were two Grant Fox penalties as they went down 16-6.
The final was not a great affair at all, as England, who had relied on their powerful pack to the exclusion of almost all backs and had been criticised for it, tried to run with the ball and did not know how to. England got the ball and Australia kept them out and irony of ironies, it was the Australian pack, not their backs, that produced the only try of the match when prop Tony Daly was driven over from a line-out. Campese, quite literally, had a hand in the victory.
England were on the attack and speedy wing Rory Underwood had an overlap, Flank Peter Winterbottom passed to Underwood, a try for all money. But like Maradonna, Campese stretched out a right hand and knocked the ball to ground. Penalty? Penalty try? No, referee Derek Bevan of Wales ordered a scrum
Australia won 12-6, Queen Elizabeth II gave them the World Cup and they, dubbing it Bill, took it home to a tickertape welcome in Sydney and then a lap of honour around the country.