Host: New Zealand
Final: All Blacks 29 France 9
Semi-Finals: France 30 Australia 24
All Blacks 49 Wales 3
Top Tryscorer: John Kirwan(NZ)/Craig Green (NZ) (6 tries)
Top Pointscorer: Grant Fox (126 points)
A new dawn for world rugby
The 1987 Rugby World Cup kicked off on the 22nd May with the All Blacks facing Italy on a sunny weekday afternoon in Auckland. John Kirwan scythed through the entire Azzurri defence and ran 90 metres to score a brilliant try as the New Zealand side ran out winners 70-6.AUDIO: Listen to Keith Quinn talk about the 1987 Rugby World Cup
That match would set the tone for the tournament as a superbly balanced New Zealand side, blessed with a fine mix of youth and experience, an astute coaching team of Brian Lochore, Alex Wyllie and John Hart and home advantage - except bizarrely enough - for a semi-final played against Wales at Ballymore in Brisbane - swept all before them.
The men from the shaky isles were never stretched - the 15 points scored by a Hugo Porta-led Argentina was the most they would concede in the tournament. Even the final was a relative coast, as they cleared out to beat the French by 29-9.
It was a tournament played in innocent times - tacked on to the end of the Northern Hemisphere season and plonked at the beginning of the Oceania winter.
Twenty years on the names from that competition still glisten as it truly was a time of heroes in rugby. The French Musketeers of Serge Blanco, Denis Charvet, Patrice Lagisquet and Phillipe Sella, the elusive David Campese and Brett Papworth wearing the yellow of Australia, the mercurial Johnathan Davies (has their been a skinnier man in international rugby?) and fellow future league convert John Deveraux represented Wales, while John Jeffrey and Finlay Calder were Scottish bravehearts. England had glorious 'names' such as Peter Winterbottam and Rory Underwood
Hugo Porta, undoubtedly the best player to ever come out of South America, had his farewell on the international stage, just as future legends Kirwan, Michael Lynagh, Matt Burke and Zinzan Brooke were introduced to the global rugby public.
France was the pick of the Northern Hemisphere sides. They played with passion and fervour and flair and were involved in the two best games of the tournament. First a thrilling 20-20 draw against Scotland in the group stages then a pulsating semi-final where Serge Blanco broke Australian hearts with a last minute try in the deep dusk at Concord Oval in Sydney.
As would happen in 1999, the French would meet their Waterloo in the final and seemed to have peaked in the semi.
The home nations offered little. The Welsh had some star names and beat the English in group play, but were smashed by the All Blacks 52-6 in the most lop-sided semi-final in the entire history of the World Cup. Scotland were brave and perhaps a little unlucky to meet the host nation at quarter-final time. The All Blacks wore white and won comfortably 30-3. The men wearing the English rose were woeful, only managing to beat minnows USA and Japan and couldn't score a try in a semi-final loss to Wales. Ireland were plucky but unambitious and lost an entertaining joust with the Wallabies at the quarter-final stage.
Fiji scored some marvellous tries but their Pacific neighbours of Tonga were a huge disappointment as they failed to win a game and lost embarrassingly to Canada.
The Alan Jones-coached Wallabies were a big disappointment also. Jones had guided them to the Grand Slam in 1984 and a series win in New Zealand two years later but his intense methods seemed to have run their course by 1987. Despite playing all their games at home and boasting a star-studded line-up they never truly fired - though were perhaps unlucky to encounter the mercurial French on one of their inspired days.
The New Zealand team, in these amateur days, were wonderfully professional. A hardened tight five at their peak and a loose trio of Michael Jones, Wayne 'Buck' Shelford and Alan Whetton made for an unstoppable pack. The backline was steadied by Canterbury tyros Warwick Taylor and Craig Green along with the flash and dash of John Gallagher, Joe Stanley and John Kirwan. Grant Fox was perfect for this style of rugby and no-one has passed the ball better in the last 20 years than David Kirk.
The men with the silver fern romped through the tournament and after early Gallic resistance in the final, clinically dismantled the French team to claim the final with relative ease.