10 Championship stars who became Rugby World Cup legends

England remain the only one of the countries from the Guinness Six Nations to win it all at a Rugby World Cup.

England remain the only one of the countries from the Guinness Six Nations to win it all at a Rugby World Cup.

But that does not tell the whole story of the northern hemisphere’s efforts as France and Wales have both come extremely close to going the whole way.

The Championship has proved a breeding ground for stars to shine on the world stage, and here we pick out ten Guinness Six Nations stars whose names have gone down in Rugby World Cup legend.

Where else can we start other than the great man?

His drop goal is the iconic moment in Rugby World Cup history for countries north of the equator.

He was the golden boy of that England team in 2003 who had climbed to No.1 in the world, and then finished the job off by winning the World Cup in Australia.

They downed the hosts in extra time in the final to get it done, and it was the boot of Wilkinson that had been their chief weapon all along.

The No.10 had already marked himself out to European fans with his efforts in the Championship – numerous titles at the turn of the century culminating in the Grand Slam in 2003 that laid the foundation for their efforts Down Under.

Years of injury hell ensued for Wilkinson but he was there again in 2007, on one ankle but still kicking England to within a whisker of a second crown before the Springboks held on in the final.

When you think of Gavin Hastings and World Cups you are inevitably drawn to that penalty miss in the semi-final against England in 1991.

But that does a disservice to the great man who played such a huge role in getting them that far in what remains their greatest ever World Cup performance.

No Scot has made more appearances or scored more points than Hastings who was pivotal in seeing off Ireland in the pool stages of that 1991 edition.

A two-time British & Irish Lion – Big Gav appeared in three World Cups overall

But in the old Five Nations he was also a key cog, particularly in Scotland’s impressive 1990 Grand Slam.

Wilkinson might be the first man who comes to mind when you think of that 2003 England team.

But Martin Johnson was their leader and already well established as a legend of the game.

You do not captain the British & Irish Lions on consecutive tours without being made of the right stuff.

And Johnson’s legendary career in the second row had begun all the way back in 1993 when he made his Red Rose bow in Paris in the old Five Nations.

England squeaked out a narrow victory that day and a legend was born, although it was an almost entirely different England team from the one that would win it all a decade later.

Only Jason Leonard remained ten years later but Johnson as a key cog in Grand Slams in 1995 and 2003, and also featured in the World Cup campaigns those same years – cementing his status in Sydney in that fateful final.

Serge Blanco is probably best remembered as the man who scored the try that took France to the inaugural World Cup final.

The full-back’s effort in the semi-final against Australia sealed victory and his own place in history.

But Blanco was already well established as a French footballing icon, the full-back had been a key cog in Grand Slams wins in 1981 and 1987 as well.

France were undone by the All Blacks in that final, but four years later Blanco was back in 1991 as captain of Les Bleus.

They could not get past the old enemy England in the end in the quarter-finals and Blanco retired thereafter.

By the time he hung up his boots he was his country’s record appearance maker and try scorer and while he has been surpassed in the former, he remains out in front in the latter.

A remarkable achievement considering the proliferation of Test matches in the professional era.

His namesake Jonathan might be soon to join him if he can help Wales go far in 2019.

But Jiffy was the man pulling the strings back in 1987 when Wales had what remains their best-ever World Cup.

They smashed England in the quarter-finals on their way to a semi-final berth.

There they were undone by the All Blacks but they dusted themselves down to beat the Wallabies in the bronze medal match.

Jiffy was already something of a legend in the valleys however, he had scored a try and a drop goal on debut for Wales against the old enemy England in the 1985 Five Nations as Wales had gone on to secure a Grand Slam.

And while he never again played in a World Cup after swapping codes to league with Widnes and then back just after the 1995 tournament, his efforts in New Zealand in 1987 alongside the likes of Ieuan Evans and Jon Devereux mark him out.

A rugby league convert who made both codes look far too easy.

Billy Whizz is one of only four men to appear in both the 2003 and 2007 World Cup finals for England.  The others are Wilkinson, Phil Vickery and Ben Kay.

Wilkinson was the team’s metronome but Robinson’s dancing feet made him the great entertainer of that era.

He is of course best remembered for his try in the 2003 final, Robinson appeared in all seven games that World Cup as England made history.

Four years later, and Brian Ashton tempted the aging flyer out of retirement for one last crack at the William Webb Ellis Cup.

He returned for the Six Nations campaign that preceded it, and crossed for two tries to take his career tally in the Championship to 14.

And in France he was at it again, crossing against USA in the pools and shrugging off injury to return for their surprise run to the final in the knockout stages.

The man they called the Dark Destroyer actually sampled Rugby World Cup action before the Guinness Six Nations.

His efforts in the 2007 tournament, specifically the New Zealand quarter-final, have entered rugby mythology at this point.

His one-man tackling machine showing was absolutely pivotal to their win over the All Blacks.

And four years later he nearly did the same as France again upset the odds to make the final and came so close to downing a nervy All Black side.

Dusautoir scored a try in the final and was again his side’s best player – earning the award for 2011 World player of the year.

But it is not just his World Cup exploits that mark him out, he also captained his country to the Grand Slam in 2010 before bowing out after the 2015 edition of the World Cup.

The versatile Brive playmaker made his France debut in 1996 and immediately established himself as a key cog in the Grand Slam winning sides of 1997 and 1998.

But undoubtedly his finest moments for Les Bleus came in the 1999 Rugby World Cup, specifically the semi-final against the All Blacks.

That day Lamaison – who often featured at centre – was wearing No.10 and it was he who crossed for an early score to fire a warning shot to the All Blacks.

But all that appeared to do was anger the beast as Jonah Lomu activated Beast Mode to skittle French defenders and put the All Blacks 24-10 up in the second half.

The game appeared to be up but Lamaison had other ideas, slotting drop goals and kicking penalties to bring his side back into it as they produced one of the all-time great comebacks.

Lamaison finished with a full house of 28 points as late scores from Christophe Dominici and Philippe Bernat Salles finished off an epic day.

The reigning Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship is gearing up for a fourth World Cup.

The Welsh lock has done it all in the northern hemisphere, winning his third Grand Slam earlier this year under Warren Gatland.

He is the only Welshman in Japan who was also part of the 2007 World Cup squad that ended with a group stage exit and a shock defeat to Fiji.

Jones will be desperate for history not to repeat itself when they face off with Fiji again this year, but the lock can draw on two tournaments of much improved performance for inspiration.

In 2011 Jones was at the forefront as Wales made the semi-finals after beating Ireland in the last eight and were red-hot favourites to see off France in the final four.

But Sam Warburton’s red card and the boot of Morgan Parra held them off and Wales had to settle for fourth in the end.

Four years later and they spoiled England’s party in making the semi-finals and again Jones was the heartbeat of the side that were just edged out by the Springboks in the last eight.

Ireland and Italy are the only two sides in the Guinness Six Nations who have yet to taste victory in a knockout match at a Rugby World Cup.

But in Keith Wood they have a history maker of their own.

Wood scored four tries in one game during the 1999 edition, the hooker running riot against a USA team that could not stop the Quins No.2.

That achievement typified his rampaging style in the loose, a forward who loved to get his hands on the ball.

And while Ireland came a cropper to Argentina that year in the quarter-final playoff, Wood’s rise continued unabated.

He was twice a British & Irish Lion, most notably in the historic series win over the Springboks in 1997.

And in 2001 was named the inaugural World Rugby Player of the Year before hanging up his boots after the 2003 World Cup.