New Zealand repeats, wins record third Rugby World Cup title

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LONDON — New Zealand has won a record third Rugby World Cup, and become the first team to successfully defend the title after beating Australia 34-17 in a breathless final at Twickenham.

New Zealand led 21-3 soon after halftime, then Australia attempted to pull off the biggest comeback in tournament history. The Wallabies scored two converted tries to cut the gap to four, but the All Blacks pulled further ahead with a Dan Carter dropped goal and penalty for breathing room at 27-17 with five minutes to go.

Australia stayed on attack, and in the last minute a fumbled pass was scooped up by New Zealand fullback Ben Smith, who chipped ahead for replacement back Beauden Barrett to score and finish a thrilling match.

After getting injured during New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup-winning campaign four years ago, Dan Carter was relieved to finally be on the field in the final this time. And it was Carter’s kicking that secured the Webb Ellis Cup for a record third time for the All Blacks.

No kick was perhaps more important than Carter’s audacious dropped goal after Australia narrowed the score to 21-17.

“I was just yelling at the ball, ‘Go! Go!'” man-of-the-match Carter said amid the celebrations on Twickenham. “I wasn’t sure I had enough. I was just relived to see it go over.”

As Carter prepared to collect the trophy, the flyhalf said: “I’m pretty grateful to be where I am after what happened four years ago … it’s a pretty strong group of guys. We try to do things that no other team has done before.”

It was likely to be the 33-year-old Carter’s last match for New Zealand as he is going to play club rugby in France.

“He is one of the great players isn’t he?” New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said. “To be able to come out and show all of his skills tonight is pretty special.”

New Zealand had a commanding 21-3 lead early in the second half but a couple of Australian tries made it seem the final would be more anxious for the defending champions.

Carter ensured it wouldn’t be, as he extended his world-record test points tally to 1,598.

“I knew the momentum was against us,” New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said. “It was a matter of not panicking and doing the simple things to get the ball back and get the control back … it shows the caliber of the men we’ve got.”

World Rugby postponing July test matches

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World Rugby has postponed July test matches involving southern and northern hemisphere nations because of ongoing restrictions on international travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sport’s international governing body issued a statement Friday saying the mid-year test window will be rescheduled when cross-border travel and quarantine regulations are relaxed.

New Zealand had been scheduled to play Wales and Scotland, Australia was set to play Ireland and Fiji and South Africa had planned to host Scotland and Georgia. World Rugby said the postponement is due “to ongoing government and health agency COVID-19 directives.”

Bill Beaumont re-elected as World Rugby chairman

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Former England captain Bill Beaumont has been re-elected as World Rugby chairman on Saturday after beating Agustín Pichot, the current vice-chairman.

The sport’s governing body says the 68-year-old Beaumont achieved a first-round majority of 28 votes to 23.

Beaumont says: “I am honored to accept the mandate of the World Rugby Council to serve as the international federation’s chairman once again.”

He begins his four-year term after a council meeting on May 12.

French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte becomes Beaumont’s new vice-chairman.