Pool Stages: Defending Champions NZ take on England in the opening match
There was a lot of excitement in the opening game because it was the defending champions, New Zealand, taking on the host nation England.
In Pool One we had favourites New Zealand and host nation England who both progressed as expected, leaving behind Italy and the United States.
Scotland and Ireland ran riot over Japan and Zimbabwe, two of the host nations having fought for top spot in pool two.
Pool three was a closely contested group – with Australia, Western Samoa, Wales and Argentina all in the running. However, Australia and Western Samoa eventually came out tops.
In pool four France and Canada sent Romania and Fiji packing.
The point system that was used in the 1987 World Cup (two points for a win and one point each for a draw) had been changed four years later. Now there was three points for a win, two points for a draw and one point for playing.
England had given New Zealand a run for their money, but due to the boot of Grant Fox the All Blacks won 18-12. He kicked over four penalties and one conversation.
New Zealand then dominated the next two fixtures by defeating the United States 46-6 and Italy 31-21.
The highest winning margins in the pool stages were 44. There were two teams that had the same winning margin – Ireland defeating Zimbabwe 55-11 and Japan beating the same opponents 52-8.
No one had ever predicted that newcomers Western Samoa would reach the quarterfinals, but they beat Wales 16-6 and Argentina 35-12 to advance.
The pool stages were entertaining due to the fact that there were no clear favourites, after England gave New Zealand a scare.