The statistics certainly read favourably for the tournament’s organisers, with over 2.47 million tickets sold, more than a million supporters attending the official tournament fanzones, and the record for the largest ever Rugby World Cup matchday crowd being broken not once, but twice, at Wembley Stadium.
Fittingly, a tournament hailed as the greatest ever was given a final that matched it for drama, excitement, and rugby of the very highest quality.
New Zealand might have been the favourites in the final, with sites like IronBet making them 2/5 for the win, while Australia were given odds of 12/5.,
Those odds were purely based on the opinions of bookmakers, but no side in rugby history had retained the Webb Ellis trophy before and there was a sense that it almost couldn’t be done.
But we now know that this New Zealand team is not like any other, and when it looked as though the occasion and Australia were about to get the better of them, they rallied in spectacular fashion.
The Aussies battled back from being 18 points down to leave the match poised, with only four points separating the two teams with 15 minutes left on the clock. But the All Blacks’ heroic fly-half, Dan Carter, led his team to victory, taking the final stages of the game by the scruff of the neck and powering his team over the line to the final whistle.
For New Zealanders, it was the ultimate performance on the game’s biggest stage. But how will it go down in history when compared to the other great Rugby World Cup finals?
1995: Mandela makes an appearance
The 1995 Rugby World Cup seemed destined to end in glory for New Zealand after Jonah Lomu’s powerhouse performance had laid waste to all comers. Lomu almost single-handedly defeated England in the semi-finals.
But in the final they faced the hosts, South Africa, in Johannesburg in a match that was prefaced by a poignant moment not just for rugby, but for global politics: the appearance of Nelson Mandela on the pitch before the game.
There was a sense that victory for South Africa would unite the country in the aftermath of Apartheid, and so it was to be, as Joel Stransky’s drop goal in extra-time gave the home side a dramatic 15-12 win.
2003: Wilkinson kicks for glory
Ask any Englishman what they were doing at 6am on November 22nd 2003, and those with good memories will tell you they were heading to the pub.
It was a bleary-eyed start to the day for England’s fans, while the team faced Australia in the Rugby World Cup Final on the other side of the world.
But before lunchtime back in England, they were partying in the street after Jonny Wilkinson’s unforgettable drop goal in the final minute proved the difference between the two sides, giving England a 20-17 win.
2011: The dynasty begins
Just as critics are calling the 2015 final the best ever, so they were making the same claims four years ago, after New Zealand and France produced one of the most memorable contests in Rugby World Cup history.
The underdogs pushed the All Blacks to the very end, and if Francois Trinh-Duc’s 48-metre penalty had sailed inside the posts in the 65th minute, history could have been re-written, but in the end New Zealand clung on for an 8-7 win and took the Webb Ellis trophy.