Since New Zealand took on Italy in the first ever Rugby World Cup match, there have been a total of 174 different match-ups across nine tournaments.

But, which are the most and least common Rugby World Cup fixtures?

The All Blacks and Azzurri have met a total of five times at the tournament, the same number of matches the former have played against Scotland, Australia against England and France versus England.

South Africa, meanwhile, have played England, New Zealand and Samoa five times in their seven tournament appearances. But, those are not the most-played fixtures.

Below, we look at the three most common Rugby World Cup matches, each of which has been played seven times.

Australia v England

On the second day of the first Rugby World Cup, co-hosts Australia took on England at Concord Oval in Sydney as the teams’ rivalry made its debut on the game’s biggest stage.

The Wallabies won that encounter 19-6, thanks to tries from David Campese and Simon Poidevin, and went on to finish fourth on home soil. Four years later, Australia went a few steps further, beating England 12-6 in the Twickenham final to win Rugby World Cup 1991.

England finally recorded their first tournament victory over Australia at RWC 1995, and eight years later avenged their final defeat as Jonny Wilkinson’s extra-time drop goal confirmed a 20-17 win over the Wallabies in the showpiece match of RWC 2003 in Sydney.

Australia have since suffered two quarter-final defeats to their old rivals, in 2007 and 2019, but gained a modicum of revenge for the 2003 final at RWC 2015, when they won 33-13 at Twickenham to knock England out of their home Rugby World Cup.

Australia v Wales

The Wallabies had already been stunned by a late Serge Blanco try in their semi-final defeat to France, when they met Wales in the bronze final of RWC 1987.

Despite losing David Codey to a red card inside five minutes, Australia led 15-13 at half-time and held a 21-16 advantage with time running out. However, there was still time for Wales to snatch victory as Adrian Hadley scored a last minute try.

But, Paul Thorburn’s match-winning conversion did not herald a golden era for Wales against the Wallabies. Australia would win each of the sides’ next five Rugby World Cup meetings, a run that included three victories in Cardiff and a bronze final win at RWC 2011.

Wales halted their losing run against the Wallabies at Japan 2019, as Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell both converted drop goals to edge their team to a 29-25 victory at Tokyo Stadium.

New Zealand v France

Eden Park played host to the first Rugby World Cup final, as co-hosts New Zealand took on France in the first edition of what has become one of the tournament’s defining rivalries.

As in their semi-final defeat of Australia, Les Bleus scored a late try but by then Michael Jones, David Kirk and John Kirwan had all crossed the whitewash and the All Blacks were well on their way to a comfortable 29-9 victory.

The two teams next met at Twickenham in the semi-finals of RWC 1999 as a Christophe Dominici-inspired France roared back from 24-10 down to win 43-31.

New Zealand triumphed when the teams met in the bronze final four years later, before another comeback victory for France in the RWC 2007 quarter-finals.

The All Blacks beat Les Bleus twice at RWC 2011, first in Pool A and then 8-7 in a nerve-jangling final — again at Eden Park. Their most recent meeting came in the RWC 2015 quarter-finals, when New Zealand ran out 62-13 winners in Cardiff.

Least common RWC matches

We’ve looked at the three most common matches at Rugby World Cups, which have each been played out seven times, but what are the least common?

Owing to the fact that several teams have only qualified for the tournament once, there are a host of match-ups that have only been played once. However, there are established rugby nations who have very little shared Rugby World Cup history.

France might have faced the All Blacks seven times but Les Bleus have only played the Springboks once at the quadrennial showpiece. That meeting came at RWC 1995, amid a downpour in Durban, as the hosts won 19-15 thanks largely to a Ruben Kruger try.

New Zealand, meanwhile, have played Fiji just once at Rugby World Cup — with that fixture being played at the very first tournament. On that occasion, Craig Green and John Gallagher both ran in four tries as the All Blacks won 74-13.

England made it through to the Rugby World Cup final in Japan last year, but the two nations have also only met once at Rugby World Cup. That match also came at the first tournament in 1987, when Mike Harrison scored three of England’s 10 tries in a 60-7 win.

Meanwhile, ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2023 Draw, Ireland have never played England or South Africa at the tournament. Will we get a new RWC fixture on Monday?

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