Rugby World Cup 2015: Great Welsh moments since 1987

By Chris HowellsBBC Wales Sport
Wales' magic moments
Shane Williams, Gethin Jenkins and John Devereux have all played their parts in breathtaking moments for Wales in the Rugby World Cup
Rugby World Cup
Hosts: England Dates: 18 September-31 October
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live and sports extra, BBC local radio, plus live text commentary on every match on the BBC Sport website.
Further coverage: BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio.

The eighth Rugby World Cup begins on Friday, with champions New Zealand hoping to retain their title. Eight matches will be held at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, with Wales in the so-called group of death facing England and Australia as well as Uruguay and Fiji.

We take a look at some of the triumphs witnessed by Wales fans since the first tournament in 1987.

1987 Third-place play-off Wales v Australia

After being smashed 49-6 by eventual winners New Zealand in the semi-final, Wales faced Australia in the third-place play-off. Australia had spent the 1980s evolving into one of the best attacking teams in the world and were strong favourites.

Some 34,000 attended the game in New Zealand in the Rotorua Stadium and witnessed a hot-headed opening when Wallaby flanker David Codey was sent off after four minutes for dangerous footwork at a ruck.

It looked as though the Wallabies were heading for victory at 21-16, but five minutes into injury time a charge forward by centre John Devereux paved the way for wing Adrian Hadley to cross in the left corner.

Wales' scrum-half Robert Jones clears against Australia
Back-rowers Paul Moriarty and Gareth Roberts and wing Adrian Hadley scored Wales' three tries in their narrow victory over Australia in 1987

Remarkably, what seemed a tough kick from the touchline was nailed with little difficulty by full-back Paul Thorburn for a 22-21 victory to seal third place for Wales - still their highest World Cup finish.

2003 New Zealand v Wales

In the pool stage of 2003, New Zealand were overwhelming favourites, but they were given a huge fright by Wales that no-one saw coming.

Expecting to be easily beaten, Wales coach Steve Hansen picked a weakened team to save a number of his first-choice players.

Shane Williams touches down to score a try against New Zealand at the 2003 RWC
Shane Williams scores against New Zealand at the 2003 Rugby World Cup

Wales wing Shane Williams, who had been selected for the squad as a third-choice scrum-half and had bought his own boots before going to Australia, came into the team and dazzled his way through the first half.

Scoring one for himself, two shimmies set up centre Sonny Parker's try and later back-row Colin Charvis dived through a gap in a ruck to score.

Wales were leading 37-33 early in the second half but the All Blacks shook themselves off eventually winning 53-37.

As the Guardian wrote;external-link 'The World Cup was waiting for a match of breathtaking intensity, virtuoso skill and epic cut and thrust, but this game was not expected to be it.'

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2007 New Zealand v France

Ok it's not a Welsh moment of glory but the match was in Cardiff and is one of the greatest sporting events to be held at the Millennium Stadium.

New Zealand had been hot favourites to win the trophy, but things started to go wrong for them when the French players stepped up on the New Zealand team whilst they performed the Haka, New Zealand's traditional, intimidating pre-match ritual.

Such an act would normally have been rugby suicide but even though the All Blacks dominated at half-time they led by just three points.

French players step up on the New Zealand team whilst they did the haka before the 2007 RWC Quarter final
French players step up on New Zealand during the haka before the 2007 RWC Quarter final

The game turned in the second-half when utility-back Luke McAlister was sin-binned for obstruction. France sprung into life and monumental flanker Thierry Dusautoir barged through to touch down.

Late on in the match, French utility-back Damien Traille fed substitute fly-half Frederic Michalak who sped away from chasing New Zealand players before off-loading to centre Yannick Jauzion who scored to even the score at 18-18. Half-back Jean-Baptiste Elissalde's conversion won the game 20-18 for France.

On the night Dusautoir recorded an impressively high tackle count with a tally of 38. As well as scoring a try, he had made more two more tackles than the entire New Zealand team. The All Black's defeat meant they failed to reach the semi-final for the first and only time in World Cup history.

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2011 Wales v Namibia

Wales went into the tournament with a relatively inexperienced team, but in 2011 players such as Rhys Priestland, Taulupe Faletau, George North and Sam Warburton announced themselves to the rugby world.

In a pool game against minnows Namibia, Wales ran riot scoring 12 tries. The pick of them was from the prop Gethin Jenkins, who dummied on the 22 and rushed clear before crashing over with three defenders on his back.

The distances change with history - reports on the day say Jenkins' run was around 30 yards, today it might be nearer 55.

Gethin Jenkins scores for Wales against Namibia at the 2011 RWC
Wales prop Gethin Jenkins scored his only World Cup try against Namibia in 2011

Wales won 81-7 and went on to confirm their quarter final place by beating Fiji, avenging their disappointing 38-34 defeat from the previous World Cup.

Wales' World Cup dream ended in the semi-final when they were narrowly beaten 9-8 by France, after captain and flanker Sam Warburton was sent off for a controversial tip-tackle on French wing Vincent Clerc.

Again they faced Australia in a third-place play-off, but this time they were defeated 21-18 at Eden Park.