Fifteen nations came along as well as an indigenous team, the New Zealand Maori. Presumably brought in to make up the sixteen sides, the opinion being a fully fledged nation couldn't be found that would be competitive enough. Thankfully it hasn't been repeated. Now for the groups. Four with four teams in each with two to qualify from each.
Group 1: Having Australia and England in one group guaranteed a larger crowd but made it next to impossible for the other two nations. As it turned out, England were a poor side that year so posed no threat to Australia. They both qualified, with Fiji and Russia with no chance.
Group 2: New Zealand had a strong team and easily went through the group. Wales just got past Lebanon and was the other qualifier. The Cook Islands were gallant and got a draw with The Cedars.
Group 3: Papua New Guinea narrowly defeated France first up and then had two fairly unconvincing wins. France played better than in 1995 and won the next two quite comfortably. Tonga were not great and South Africa made up the numbers. So PNG and France went through.
Group 4: Some fancied the NZ Maori to win this group. After a one point victory over a novice Scottish side, they lost the next two to end their campaign. Ireland was a surprise winner over Samoa, but those two sides progressed.
Quarter Finals: Australia comfortably defeated Samoa, likewise NZ over France. England toiled to get past Ireland and Wales progressed courtesy of a win over PNG.
Semi Finals: Australia were shocked by a fast starting Wales but steadied the ship to get past their plucky opponents. England offered no resistance to a NZ side that was looking very good.
Final: What many - including myself - thought was a game that could have gone either way was nothing of the sort. The Kangaroos cantered home 40-12, the biggest winning margin for a WC final ever. 44,000 mainly neutral fans turned up to watch.
The next in the series (2008) can be seen by clicking here.
The first in the series (1954) can be seen by clicking here.
|2000 HOSTS : ENG - WAL - IRE - FRA / WINNER : AUSTRALIA|
|Group 1||Group 2||Group 3||Group 4|
|Final Group Standings||QF||SF||Final|
|Gr 1||Gr 2||Gr 3||Gr 4||AUS||66||NZL||54||AUS||46||AUS||40|