6 Famous Rugby Photos

Rugby players scrum during the Six Nations Tournament match England vs Italy.

In the world of sports photography, some images transcend time and become iconic representations of the passion, power, and grace of the game. In the shadow of the 2023 Rugby Union World Cup, I wanted to share some of the most famous rugby photos you’ll ever see.

From breathtaking tries to bone-crushing tackles, these snapshots freeze moments in time that rugby fans will never forget. In this article, I’ll take you on a visual journey through 6 of the most famous rugby photos ever captured, revealing the stories behind each image and the emotions they evoke.

1. The Jonah Lomu Phenomenon

When you think of rugby legends, Jonah Lomu’s name is likely to be among the first that comes to mind. The New Zealand winger’s sheer power and speed made him a formidable force on the field, and his legacy lives on in one of the most famous rugby photos of all time.

In the 1995 Rugby World Cup semi final against England, Lomu burst through the English defence like a freight train, leaving a trail of would-be tacklers in his wake. The image of him crashing over the try line with the ball in one hand and his opponents in the other is etched in rugby history.

This famous rugby photo perfectly captures Lomu’s dominance and the sheer spectacle he brought to the game. The expression of disbelief on the faces of the English players tells a story of its own, as they grapple with the impossible task of stopping the unstoppable. It’s a moment that transcends borders and reminds us all of the magic that can happen on the rugby field.

Jonah Lomu's iconic try against England in the 1995 Rugby World Cup
Jonah Lomu's iconic try against England in the 1995 Rugby World Cup

2. The 'Hand of God' in Rugby

While Jonah Lomu was known for his try-scoring exploits, another iconic image involves him on the receiving end of one of the most famous rugby tackles ever made. South African scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen’s tackle on Lomu during the 1995 Rugby World Cup final is often referred to as the ‘Hand of God’ moment in rugby.

In this incredible photograph, you can see Van der Westhuizen’s outstretched arm desperately clutching Lomu’s jersey, preventing what seemed like an inevitable try. This tackle not only defined the game but also showcased the indomitable spirit of rugby players who give their all for their team. It’s a picture that symbolises the heart and determination that are at the core of rugby.

Joost van der Westhuizen's iconic tackle on Jonah Lomu

3. The All Blacks' Haka

Rugby is not just about the action on the field; it’s also about the traditions and rituals that make the sport unique. One such tradition is the Haka, a traditional Māori war dance performed by the New Zealand national team, the All Blacks, before their matches. This famous rugby photo captures the team in the midst of their passionate Haka, a spine-tingling spectacle that sends shivers down the spines of both players and fans.

The Haka is a symbol of the warrior spirit, respect, and unity that rugby embodies. This photograph serves as a reminder of the cultural richness and intensity that rugby brings to the world stage. It’s a sight that transcends the sport itself and has become a defining image of rugby’s unique character.

The All Blacks performing the Haka before a match
The All Blacks performing the Haka before a match

4. The Miracle of Brighton

Sometimes, rugby is about more than just the sport; it’s about the underdog defying the odds and achieving the impossible. The 2015 Rugby World Cup witnessed one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport when Japan, a team often considered an underdog, defeated the mighty South Africa in a thrilling encounter.

The photograph capturing Japan’s winning try in the final moments of the game is a testament to the spirit of rugby.

In this famous rugby photo, you can see the joy and disbelief on the faces of the Japanese players as they celebrate their historic victory. It’s a reminder that in rugby, determination and teamwork can overcome even the most daunting challenges.

This image continues to inspire rugby players and fans alike, serving as a symbol of the sport’s capacity to produce incredible moments.

Japan's winning try against South Africa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup
Japan's winning try against South Africa in the 2015 Rugby World Cup

5. The Battle of Bledisloe

Rugby is a sport known for its intensity and physicality, and there are few moments that capture this essence better than a fierce scrum. In the Battle of Bledisloe, the long-standing rivalry between Australia and New Zealand, the intensity is on full display.

This famous rugby photo shows the front row of both teams locked in a titanic struggle, epitomising the physicality of the sport.

The scrum is a crucial aspect of rugby, where strength, technique, and teamwork collide. This photograph showcases the determination etched on the faces of the players as they give their all to gain the upper hand in this pivotal set piece. It’s a reminder that rugby is a game that demands not only skill but also incredible physical effort and mental toughness.

A fierce scrum between Australia and New Zealand
A fierce scrum between Australia and New Zealand

6. A Captain's Triumph

No list of famous rugby photos would be complete without the image of a triumphant captain hoisting the Rugby World Cup. In 2003, England’s Martin Johnson had the honour of doing just that after his team’s historic victory against Australia in the Rugby World Cup final. This photograph captures the sheer joy and accomplishment etched on Johnson’s face as he raises the Webb Ellis Cup.

This moment is a culmination of years of dedication and hard work, not only for Johnson but for the entire team. It’s a reminder that rugby is a team sport, and the captain’s leadership is often a crucial factor in a team’s success. This image inspires aspiring rugby players to dream big and work tirelessly to achieve their goals, just like Martin Johnson and his team did in 2003.

Martin Johnson lifting the Rugby World Cup in 2003
Martin Johnson lifting the Rugby World Cup in 2003

Famous Photos in Rugby: Final Whistle Words

As we approach full time remember that these famous rugby photos are more than just snapshots of a game; they are windows into the soul of rugby union. Each image tells a story of triumph, passion, and the indomitable spirit that defines the sport.

Whether it’s the awe-inspiring feats of legendary players or the cultural traditions that make rugby unique, these photographs capture the essence of a sport that continues to capture the hearts of fans around the world.

Rugby union is more than just a game; it’s a way of life, and these iconic images are a testament to that enduring legacy. So, the next time you watch a rugby match, remember the power of these images and the stories they tell about the beautiful game of rugby union.


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