The Rugby World Cup History
The Rugby World Cup is the biggest international rugby union event. The tournament, organised by Rugby’s governing body, the International Rugby Board (IRB), is contested every four years and is one of the largest international sporting competitions in the world. The Rugby World Cup is one of the largest international sporting events in the world, surpassed in scale only by the Football World Cup, the Summer Olympics and the Tour de France. The winners of The Rugby World Cup are awarded the William Webb Ellis Cup. William Webb Ellis was the Rugby School pupil who allegedly invented the game by picking up the ball during a game akin to one of the many codes of medieval football.
Before the Rugby World Cup existed, there were only regional international rugby union competitions. In the Northern Hemisphere there’s the Six Nations Championship, which started in 1883 as the “Home Nations” championship and in the Southern Hemisphere, the equivalent competition is the Tri Nations which is held between Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and began in 1996.
The idea of a Rugby World Cup had been suggested many times going back to the 1950s, but there was always opposition from unions in the IRFB. Then in 1985, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France were in favour of a world cup, which tyed the vote 8ñ8 and when the Welsh and English delegates then switched sides, the IRFB finally approved the inaugural Rugby World Cup, by 10 votes to 6. The first Rugby World Cup, jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, was held in May and June 1987 with sixteen nations taking part.
South Africa are the current World Champions, having won the 2007 Rugby World Cup final in France on 20 October 2007 with victory over England, the 2003 World Champions. The 2011 Rugby World Cup takes place this year in New Zealand and the hosts for 2015 and 2019 have been announced as England and Japan respectively.
Twenty four rugby nations have taken part in the Rugby World Cup finals and out of the six Rugby World Cups that have been held, all but one have been won by a team from the southern hemisphere. New Zealand won the inaugural World Cup in 1987, with Australia winning in 1991, South Africa in 1995, Australia again in 1999 and then South Africa again in 2007. The southern hemisphere’s dominance, which extended over four World Cups, was broken by England in 2003.
However it hasn’t been total dominance by the Southern Hemisphere, the only all-southern final was in 1995 (South Africa and New Zealand). England (1991) and France (1987 and 1999) between them were runners-up in all other tournaments before the 2003 Rugby World Cup. The spread of nations competing in the third/fourth place playoff is equal between both hemispheres over all tournaments.
Thus far the only nations to host and win a tournament are New Zealand in 1987 and South Africa in 1995. The performance of other host nations includes England in 1991 and Australia in 2003 finishing runners-up. France in 2007 finished fourth, while Wales failed to reach the semi-finals in 1999. Of the twenty-four nations that have ever participated in at least one tournament, twelve of them have never missed a tournament.
Interesting Rugby World Cup Facts:
- The 2003 final between Australia and England, became the most watched rugby union match in the history of Australian television
- The first World Cup, in 1987, had a cumulative world television audience of 300 million
- The 1991 event in England, reached 1.75 billion
- South Africa’s 1995 tournament reached 2.67 billion
- The 1999 Welsh-hosted event reached 3 billion
- The 2003 tournament had a cumulative world television audience of 3.5 billion and was broadcast in 205 countries
- The 2003 tournament had 48 matches, with an average attendance of 38,282 and a total of 1,837,547
- The 2007 tournament had a cumulative world television audience of 4.2 billion for the 48 matches, with an average attendance of 47,150 per match, and a total attandance at all matches of 2,263,223
- Johnny Wilinson is the highest points scorer in Rugby World Cup History, with 249 points from 15 matches. This includes 1 try, 23 conversions, 53 penalties and 13 drop goals.
- Jonah Lomu is the highest try scorer in Rugby World Cup History, with 15 trys from 11 matches.
- In World Cup History, New Zealand have scored far away the highest number of World Cup points. The All Blacks have scored 1,711 points compared to the next best team Australia with 1,212 points. However after winning the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, the regular favourites always seem to perform well before, some say “Choking”, and falling to a shock exit. This year, they will find that as hosts, the pressure will be even bigger.