The Rugby World Cup has become one of the biggest sporting events in the World after the Olympic Games and Soccer World Cup.
This year will be the eight time the best in the world will compete for the Webb Ellis Trophy but it was not easy to get the then IRFB to agree to stage a world cup.
Rugby has been around since 1823 when a scholar named William Webb Ellis picked up a football and ran with it to score. These roots of rugby were played at Rugby School in England, hence the name of the sport. Like any origin tale, there have been arguments about who did what, but the name William Webb Ellis is carved into rugby folklore.
With the continued spread and development of the sport, the first registered international was in 1871 when England and Scotland played against each other. Later, Wales and Ireland had representative teams and in 1883, the competition now known as the Six Nations was born.
Naturally the spread of the sport was grown through the British Empire so many of the old monarch countries adopted the sport, that is why you can find many old empire territories with a rich history of the game.
Since that time, rules and regulations have been drawn up, adapted and abolished so that we now have the modern day game
There are a few stories that suggest a staging of a world cup before the 80’s. One of the earliest was Harld Tolhurst, an Aussie player who brought up the idea of such a tournament in the 1950’s. The International Rugby Board made it clear that it did not want any of its unions to form part of such a tournament.
The same idea was brought forward by Bill McLaughlin who was the president of the Australia Rugby union in 1979. He wanted it to be stage in Australia to coincide with Australia bicentenary celebrations.
Niel Durden-Smith suggested that a world cup should be held in the United Kingdom in the mid-1980s but the IRB again did not approve the proposal.
In 1983 Australia put again a proposal for the first world cup and this time New Zealand joined the campaign putting their own proposal in. The IRB went on and conduct a feasibility study.
The IRB held a meeting in Paris, March 1985 and all four home nations were opposed to the idea with the most vocal supporters been Australia, New Zealand and France.
It is believed that South African voted in favour of the tournament, was the turning point. South Africa voted in favour although they knew they would not be able to compete due to the sport boycott at the time.
South Africa vote saw England and Wales change their vote in favour of the tournament. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France, England, Scotland all voted for the tournament with only Ireland and Wales against it.
The decision was a massive one for rugby but it only ensured for one tournament, there were no plans to stage a second one. The decision was that the tournament would be run by the world body and not businessmen or television companies interested only in the money it would generate.
Argentina were invited to take South Africa’s place with other invitations given to Fiji, Tonga, Japan, Canada, Romania, Zimbabwe, Italy and the USA.
The inaugural tournament saw 600 000 people pass through the gates and 300 million watching on television. That will increased to 1.75 million and 3 billion for the 1999 event.
The winners of the World Cup receives the Webb Ellis Cup as the prize named after William Webb Ellis. The trophy was chosen in 1987 for use in the tournament and was created in 1906 by Gerrard’s Crown Jewellers.
World Cup Winners….
Sixteen invited countries arrived in New Zealand and Australia in 1987 to do battle for the new Webb Ellis Cup. As a spectacle, the Tournament was a far cry from the global occasion the RWC has now become, but the competition was fierce and compelling. Eventually New Zealand triumphed over France in the Final, 29-9 and David Kirk lifted the Cup in front of an ecstatic Eden Park crowd. RWC had arrived!
Final: Eden Park, Auckland
New Zealand 29 – 9 France
In 1991, England, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales jointly hosted the Tournament. The opening match and Final were both held at Twickenham and the home side England went about the Tournament with a confidence to uproot the favourites of the southern hemisphere. A young and dynamic Australian team under Nick Farr Jones’ captaincy swept all in its path and went on to win the Final 12-6 over disappointed hosts England.
Final: Twickenham, London
England 6 – 12 Australia
Having established itself as a global sporting event, RWC moved to South Africa in 1995 only 13 months after Nelson Mandela had become president in the country’s first democratic election. The euphoria of hosting a world event for the first time played heavily in the host’s favour who went on to win the final 15-12 after a dramatic extra-time period against tournament favourites, New Zealand.
Final: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
South Africa 15 – 12 New Zealand
The powerful images of the event in SA carried through to Wales 1999 and RWC viewing figures and revenue took a significant leap forward.Rugby as a sport too was growing dramatically due mainly to the success of RWC, and tournament participation was increased to 20 teams. The dramatic semi-final exit of the mighty All Blacks to the French was an unexpected result, however the Tricolours could not maintain the momentum and it was the infallible Wallabies who were crowned champions after winning the final 35-12.
Final: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Australia 35 – 12 France
RWC had now become a truly global occasion, as television interest, ticket sales, international travel and the corporate market results bore testament to. In a nearscripted finish, the hosts and holders Wallabies could not stave off favourites and old sporting foes England. In the most stunning Rugby final of all time, England clinched the trophy with a dramatic drop-goal deep into extra-time (20-17). The Webb Ellis Cup was heading north for the first time!
Final: Stadium Australia, Sydney
Australia 17 – 20 England
The excitement and passion for RWC proved even more intense than 2003, as the event was hosted with typical Gallic flair across a proud and hospitable France. In the country of impulsive and flamboyant Rugby, the tournament took its cue with a series of thrilling matches and unpredictable results. Somehow the hosts did the impossible and ousted the favourites New Zealand, only then to be out-thought by a resurgent England in the semi-finals. Their final against a South African team that had quietly and confidently dispatched all in its path, was true to the occasion – hard fought and physical at all levels. Eventually South Africa prevailed 15-6, and another thrilling RWC chapter had come to a close.
Final: Stade de France, St Denis
England 6 – 15 South Africa
The hosts held on in a nail biting Final but RWC 2011 was also a Tournament where emerging nations reiterated how they are further closing the gap on the traditional power houses.
Final: Eden Park, Auckland
France 7 – 8 New Zealand