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All blacks Winning haka

New Zealand have made history by becoming the first team to successfully defend their Rugby World Cup crown in a final at Twickenham that many will be talking about for years to come.

The pre-tournament favourites certainly did not disappoint, gracing the tournament with some breathtaking rugby to eventually get their hands on the Web Ellis Cup and give the retiring Dan Carter the perfect send-off.

So how was the World Cup won? Here is our look back at what may well be the best competition ever.

Pool Stages

Perhaps the most notable part of the pool stages was England's failure to get the quarter finals, becoming the first host nation to do so in World Cup history. A last-gasp defeat to Wales at Twickenham meant Stuart Lancaster's team headed into their last game needing a win over eventual pool winners Australia. But a fine performance from the Wallabies saw England slump to a 33-13 defeat and crash out of the tournament, allowing Wales to progress.

Pool B yielded arguably the biggest shock of the tournament, with former champions South Africa sunk by a last-minute try at the hands of Japan in Brighton in what many will argue is the greatest shock in the history of the World Cup. However, the Springboks recovered to eventually finish top, while Japan lost out to Scotland, who showed plenty of battling spirit to overcome Samoa in Newcastle.

New Zealand were given few problems in emerging as winners of Pool C. A 26-16 win over second-placed Argentina was arguably as close as the All Blacks came to being tested, recording comfortable wins over Georgia, Tonga and Namibia.

Six Nations champions Ireland had been many people's tip to go all the way in this competition. That prediction looked to be vindicated at the end of matches in Pool D, with Joe Schmidt's team winning all four of their matches to top the group. Former finalists France qualified as runners-up, finishing ahead of Six Nations rivals Italy.

Quarter Finals

A late try from Fourie du Preez saw South Africa edge past Welsh in a predictably heavy-duty encounter, inspired by a powerful South African pack.  Dan Biggar's penalty saw Wales take a one-point lead before Du Preez eventually went over as the Springboks overcame Sam Warburton's side for the second consecutive World Cup and sealed a semi-final with New Zealand.

The All Blacks prepared for that showdown in ideal fashion, producing one of the tournament's finest performances to hammer France 63-13. Julian Savea scored a superb hat-trick of tries to cement his place as one of the World Cup's best performers, while Brodie Retallick and Nehe Milner-Skudder, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read and Tawera Kerr-Barlow also bundled over.

Ireland's World Cup dream was also undone by southern hemisphere opposition as they were outdone by surprise package Argentina. Having taken a 17-0 lead, the Pumas were pinned back by tries from Luke Fitzgerald and Jordi Murphy either side of the break ensured helped cut the deficit to 23-20. But Argentina kept going and eventually sealed an impressive win late on with two late tries from Joaquin Tuculet and Juan Imhoff, earning a place in the semi-finals against Australia.

The Wallabies took their spot in the next round in hugely controversial fashion. A compelling encounter of eight tries looked to be heading Scotland's way when Mark Bennett went over seven minutes from time, but a famous win was denied when referee Craig Joubert called a deliberate offside in the last minute, despite replays suggesting the ball may have come off an Australian player. Bernard Foley stepped up to stroke home the resulting penalty and seal the win and ensure the last four was an all-southern hemisphere affair.

Semi-finals

The All Blacks were made to work hard for their place in the final, grinding out an impressive 20-18 win over South Africa at sodden Twickenham. The Springboks lacked the cutting edge of their opponents and let a five-point lead slip thanks to Dan Carter's drop goal and Beauden Barrett's try. South Africa brought themselves to within two points with two penalties either side of Carter's kick, but New Zealand held on to progress to their fourth final.

Bitter rivals Australia joined them for the final game after holding off a brave Argentina comeback to earn a 29-15 win, although Argentina will undoubtedly take plenty of positives from their performance at the tournament, despite succumbing to a 24-13 defeat to South Africa in the Bronze Medal Match.

The Final

New Zealand arrived at Twickenham on the verge of making history and boasting one of the best teams to have been produced for an international side. Surprisingly, these two sides had never met in a World Cup final before, but they certainly did not disappoint in providing a spectacle worthy of finishing a fine tournament.

Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ma'a Nonu both went over with some wonderful tries as the All Blacks raced into a 21-3 lead, but the Aussies fought back. David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani struck back with some well-taken tries, leaving the Wallabies within four points of the defending champions with 15 minutes to go. But New Zealand were not to be denied and regained control yet again through the talismanic boot of Dan Carter, whose stunning long-distance drop-goal and penalty swung the momentum back in his side's favour. And a momentous win was sealed when Beauden Barrett sprinted away to latch on to Ben Smith's clearing kick late on, allowing New Zealand to become the first team to be crowned world champions three times.

While winning a World Cup is a wonderful achievement in itself, the result will have doubly sweet for Carter, one of a host of retiring players for the All Blacks, who once again got the best of one of their most bitter rivals on the biggest stage of all.

 

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