|Current season or competition:|
2023 Rugby World Cup
|Number of teams||20|
|Regions||Worldwide (World Rugby)|
|Holders||South Africa (2019)|
|Most titles|| New Zealand (3 titles)|
South Africa (3 titles)
The Rugby World Cup is a men's rugby union tournament contested every four years between the top international teams. The tournament is administered by World Rugby, the sport's international governing body. The winners are awarded the Webb Ellis Cup, named after William Webb Ellis, who according to a popular legend, invented rugby by picking up the ball during a football game.
The tournament was first held in 1987 and was co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia. Four countries have won the trophy; New Zealand and South Africa three times, Australia twice, and England once. South Africa are the current champions, having defeated England in the 2019 tournament final.
Sixteen teams participated in the tournament from 1987 until 1995; since 1999, twenty teams have participated in each tournamen. Japan hosted the 2019 Rugby World Cup and France will host the next in 2023.
Under the current format, 20 teams qualify for each Rugby World Cup. Twelve teams qualify automatically based on their performance in the previous World Cup — the top three teams in each of the four group (pool) stages of the previous tournament qualify for the next tournament as seeded teams.The qualification system for the remaining eight places is region-based, with a total eight teams allocated for Europe, five for Oceania, three for the Americas, two for Africa, and one for Asia. The last place is determined by an intercontinental play-off.
The tournament involves twenty nations competing over six weeks.There are two stages — a pool, followed by a knockout round. Nations are divided into four pools, A through to D, of five nations each. The teams are seeded based on the World Rankings. The four highest-ranked teams are drawn into pools A to D. The next four highest-ranked teams are then drawn into pools A to D, followed by the next four. The remaining positions in each pool are filled by the qualifiers.
Nations play four pool games, playing their respective pool members once each.A bonus points system is used during pool play. If two or more teams are level on points, a system of criteria determines the higher ranked.
Eight teams — the winner and runner-up from each of the four pools — enter the knockout stage. The knockout stage consists of quarter- and semi-finals, and then the final. The winner of each pool is placed against a runner-up of a different pool in a quarter-final. The winner of each quarter-final goes on to the semi-finals, and the respective winners proceed to the final. Losers of the semi-finals contest for third place, called the 'Bronze Final'. If a match in the knockout stages ends in a draw, the winner is determined through extra time. If that fails, the match goes into sudden death and the next team to score any points is the winner.
Prior to the Rugby World Cup, there was no truly global rugby union competition, but there were a number of other tournaments. One of the oldest is the annual Six Nations Championship, which started in 1883 as the Home Nations Championship, a tournament between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It expanded to the Five Nations in 1910, when France joined the tournament. France did not participate from 1931 to 1939, during which period it reverted to a Home Nations championship. In 2000, Italy joined the competition, which became the Six Nations.
Rugby union was also played at the Summer Olympic Games, first appearing at the 1900 Paris games and subsequently at London in 1908, Antwerp in 1920, and Paris again in 1924. France won the first gold medal, then Australasia, with the last two being won by the United States. However rugby union ceased to be on Olympic program after 1924.
The idea of a Rugby World Cup had been suggested on numerous occasions going back to the 1950s, but met with opposition from most unions in the IRFB.The idea resurfaced several times in the early 1980s, with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU; now known as Rugby Australia) in 1983, and the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU; now known as New Zealand Rugby) in 1984 independently proposing the establishment of a world cup. A proposal was again put to the IRFB in 1985 and this time passed 10–6. The delegates from Australia, France, New Zealand and South Africa all voted for the proposal, and the delegates from Ireland and Scotland against; the English and Welsh delegates were split, with one from each country for and one against.
The inaugural tournament, jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, was held in May and June 1987, with sixteen nations taking part.The inaugural World Cup in 1987, did not involve any qualifying process; instead, the 16 places were automatically filled by seven eligible International Rugby Football Board (IRFB, now World Rugby) member nations, and the rest by invitation. New Zealand became the first-ever champions, defeating France 29–9 in the final. The subsequent 1991 tournament was hosted by England, with matches played throughout Britain, Ireland and France. Qualifying tournaments were introduced for the second tournament, where eight of the sixteen places were contested in a twenty-four-nation tournament. This tournament saw the introduction of a qualifying tournament; eight places were allocated to the quarter-finalists from 1987, and the remaining eight decided by a thirty-five nation qualifying tournament. Australia won the second tournament, defeating England 12–6 in the final.
In 1992, eight years after their last official series,South Africa hosted New Zealand in a one-off test match. The resumption of international rugby in South Africa came after the dismantling of the apartheid system, and was only done with permission of the African National Congress. With their return to test rugby, South Africa were selected to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup. After upsetting Australia in the opening match, South Africa continued to advance through the tournament until they met New Zealand in the final. After a tense final that went into extra time, South Africa emerged 15–12 winners, with then President Nelson Mandela, wearing a Springbok jersey, presenting the trophy to South Africa's captain, Francois Pienaar.
The 1999 tournament was hosted by Wales with matches also being held throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, Ireland and France. The tournament included a repechage system,alongside specific regional qualifying places. The number of participating nations was increased from sixteen to twenty — and has remained to date at twenty. Australia claimed their second title, defeating France in the final. The combination of the sport turning professional after 1995 and the increase in teams from sixteen to twenty led to a number of remarkably lopsided results in both the 1999 and 2003 tournaments, with two matches in each tournament resulting in teams scoring over 100 points; Australia’s 142–0 win over Namibia in 2003 stands as the most lopsided score in Rugby World Cup history.
In 2003 and 2007, the qualifying format allowed for eight of the twenty available positions to be automatically filled by the eight quarter-finalists of the previous tournament. The remaining twelve positions were filled by continental qualifying tournaments.Ten positions were filled by teams qualifying directly through continental competitions. Another two places were allocated for a cross-continental repechage.
The 2003 event was hosted by Australia, although it was originally intended to be held jointly with New Zealand. England emerged as champions defeating Australia in extra time. England's win broke the southern hemisphere's dominance in the event. Such was the celebration of England's victory that an estimated 750,000 people gathered in central London to greet the team, making the day the largest sporting celebration of its kind ever in the United Kingdom.
The 2007 competition was hosted by France, with matches also being held in Wales and Scotland. South Africa claimed their second title by defeating defending champions England 15–6. The biggest story of the tournament, however, was Argentina who racked up wins against some of the top European teams — France, Ireland, and Scotland — to finish first in the Pool of death and finish third overall in the tournament.The attention from Argentina’s performance led to Argentina participating in SANZAAR and the professionalization of rugby in Argentina. The 2011 tournament was awarded to New Zealand in November 2005, ahead of bids from Japan and South Africa. The All Blacks reclaimed their place atop the rugby world with a narrow 8–7 win over France in the 2011 final.
The opening weekend of the 2015 tournament, hosted by England, generated the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history when Japan, who had not won a single World Cup match since 1991, defeated heavily favored South Africa. Overall, New Zealand once again won the final, this time against Australia. In doing so, they became the first team in World Cup history to win three titles, as well as the first to successfully defend a title.
Japan’s hosting of the 2019 World Cup marked the first time the tournament had been held outside the traditional rugby strongholds; Japan won all four of their pool matches to top their group and qualify to the quarter-finals for the first time. The tournament saw South Africa claim their third trophy to match New Zealand for the most Rugby World Cup titles. South Africa defeated England 32–12 in the final.
Starting in 2021, gender designations will be removed from the titles of the men's and women's World Cups. Accordingly, all future World Cups for men and women will officially bear the "Rugby World Cup" name. The first tournament to be affected by the new policy will be the next women's tournament to be held in New Zealand in 2021, which will officially be titled as "Rugby World Cup 2021".
Winners of the Rugby World Cup are presented with the Webb Ellis Cup, named after William Webb Ellis. The trophy is also referred to simply as the Rugby World Cup. The trophy was chosen in 1987 for use in the competition, and was created in 1906 by Garrard's Crown Jewellers.The trophy is restored after each game by fellow Royal Warrant holder Thomas Lyte. The words 'The International Rugby Football Board' and 'The Webb Ellis Cup' are engraved on the face of the cup. It stands thirty-eight centimetres high and is silver gilded in gold, and supported by two cast scroll handles, one with the head of a satyr, and the other a head of a nymph. In Australia the trophy is colloquially known as "Bill" — a reference to William Webb Ellis.
Tournaments are organised by Rugby World Cup Ltd (RWCL), which is itself owned by World Rugby. The selection of host is decided by a vote of World Rugby Council members.The voting procedure is managed by a team of independent auditors, and the voting kept secret. The host nation is generally selected five or six years before the competition.
The tournament has been hosted by multiple nations. For example, the 1987 tournament was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. World Rugby requires that the hosts must have a venue with a capacity of at least 60,000 spectators for the final.Host nations sometimes construct or upgrade stadia in preparation for the World Cup, such as Millennium Stadium – purpose built for the 1999 tournament – and Eden Park, upgraded for 2011. The first country outside of the traditional rugby nations of SANZAAR or the Six Nations to be awarded the hosting rights was 2019 host Japan. France will host the 2023 tournament.
Organizers of the Rugby World Cup, as well as the Global Sports Impact, state that the Rugby World Cup is the third largest sporting event in the world, behind only the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics,although other sources question whether this is accurate.
Reports emanating from World Rugby and its business partners have frequently touted the tournament's media growth, with cumulative worldwide television audiences of 300 million for the inaugural 1987 tournament, 1.75 billion in 1991, 2.67 billion in 1995, 3 billion in 1999,3.5 billion in 2003, and 4 billion in 2007. The 4 billion figure was widely dismissed as the global audience for television is estimated to be about 4.2 billion.
However, independent reviews have called into question the methodology of those growth estimates, pointing to factual inconsistencies.The event's supposed drawing power outside of a handful of rugby strongholds was also downplayed significantly, with an estimated 97 percent of the 33 million average audience produced by the 2007 final coming from Australasia, South Africa, the British Isles and France. Other sports have been accused of exaggerating their television reach over the years; such claims are not exclusive to the Rugby World Cup.
While the event's global popularity remains a matter of dispute, high interest in traditional rugby nations is well documented. The 2003 final, between Australia and England, became the most watched rugby union match in the history of Australian television.
|Year||Host(s)||Total attendance||Matches||Avg attendance||% change |
in avg att.
|Stadium capacity||Attendance as |
% of capacity
|1987|| Australia |
|1991|| England |
†Typhoon Hagibis caused 3 group stage matches to be cancelled permanently. As a result, only 45 of the scheduled 48 matches were played in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
|Gate receipts (M £)||--||--||15||55||81||147||131||250||--|
|Broadcasting (M £)||--||--||19||44||60||82||93||155||--|
|Sponsorship (M £)||--||--||8||18||16||28||29||--||--|
|Surplus (M £)||1||4||18||47||64||122||92||150||--|
|Winner||Score||Runner-up||3rd place||Score||4th place|
|1987|| Australia |
|1991|| England |
| 15–12 |
( aet )
| 20–17 |
( aet )
|2023||France||To be determined||To be determined||20|
This section needs additional citations for verification .(July 2021)
Twenty-five nations have participated at the Rugby World Cup (excluding qualifying tournaments). The only nations to host and win a tournament are New Zealand (1987 and 2011) and South Africa (1995). The performance of other host nations includes England (1991 final hosts) and Australia (2003 hosts) both finishing runners-up, while France (2007 hosts) finished fourth, and Wales (1999 hosts) and Japan (2019 hosts) reached the quarter-finals. Wales became the first host nation to be eliminated at the pool stages in 1991 while England became the first solo host nation to be eliminated at the pool stages in 2015.Of the twenty-five nations that have participated in at least one tournament, eleven of them have never missed a tournament.
|Team||Champions||Runners-up||Third||Fourth||Quarter-finals||Apps in top 8|
|New Zealand||3 (1987, 2011, 2015)||1 (1995)||3 (1991, 2003, 2019)||1 (1999)||1 (2007)||9|
|South Africa||3 (1995, 2007, 2019)||–||2 (1999, 2015)||–||2 (2003, 2011)||7a|
|Australia||2 (1991, 1999)||2 (2003, 2015)||1 (2011)||1 (1987)||3 (1995, 2007, 2019)||9|
|England||1 (2003)||3 (1991, 2007, 2019)||–||1 (1995)||3 (1987, 1999, 2011)||8|
|France||–||3 (1987, 1999, 2011)||1 (1995)||2 (2003, 2007)||3 (1991, 2015, 2019)||9|
|Wales||–||–||1 (1987)||2 (2011, 2019)||3 (1999, 2003, 2015)||6|
|Argentina||–||–||1 (2007)||1 (2015)||2 (1999, 2011)||4|
|Scotland||–||–||–||1 (1991)||6 (1987, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2015)||7|
|Ireland||–||–||–||–||7 (1987, 1991, 1995, 2003, 2011, 2015, 2019)||7|
|Fiji||–||–||–||–||2 (1987, 2007)||2|
|Samoa||–||–||–||–||2 (1991, 1995)||2|
a South Africa was excluded from the first two tournaments due to a sporting boycott during the apartheid era.
The record for most points overall is held by English player Jonny Wilkinson, who scored 277 during his World Cup career.New Zealand All Black Grant Fox holds the record for most points in one competition, with 126 in 1987; Jason Leonard of England holds the record for most World Cup matches: 22 between 1991 and 2003. All Black Simon Culhane holds the record for most points in a match by one player, 45, as well as the record for most conversions in a match, 20. All Black Marc Ellis holds the record for most tries in a match, six, which he scored against Japan in 1995.
New Zealand All Black Jonah Lomu is the youngest player to appear in a final – aged 20 years and 43 days at the 1995 Final.Lomu (playing in two tournaments) and South African Bryan Habana (playing in three tournaments) share the record for most total World Cup tournament tries, both scoring 15. Lomu (in 1999) and Habana (in 2007) also share the record, along with All Black Julian Savea (in 2015), for most tries in a tournament, with 8 each. South Africa's Jannie de Beer kicked five drop-goals against England in 1999 – an individual record for a single World Cup match. The record for most penalties in a match is 8, held by Australian Matt Burke, Argentinian Gonzalo Quesada, Scotland's Gavin Hastings and France's Thierry Lacroix, with Quesada also holding the record for most penalties in a tournament, with 31.
The most points scored in a game is 145, by the All Blacks against Japan in 1995, while the widest winning margin is 142, held by Australia in a match against Namibia in 2003.
A total of 16 players have been sent off (red carded) in the tournament. Welsh lock Huw Richards was the first, while playing against New Zealand in 1987. No player has been red carded more than once.
The 1999 Rugby World Cup was the fourth Rugby World Cup, the quadrennial international rugby union championship. It was principally hosted by Wales, and was won by Australia. This was the first Rugby World Cup to be held in the sport's professional era.
The 2007 Rugby World Cup was the sixth Rugby World Cup, a quadrennial international rugby union competition inaugurated in 1987. Twenty nations competed for the Webb Ellis Cup in the tournament, which was hosted by France from 7 September to 20 October. France won the hosting rights in 2003, beating a bid from England. The competition consisted of 48 matches over 44 days; 42 matches were played in ten cities throughout France, as well as four in Cardiff, Wales, and two in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The 1995 Rugby World Cup was the third Rugby World Cup. It was hosted and won by South Africa, and was the first Rugby World Cup in which every match was held in one country.
The Wales national rugby union team represents Wales in men's international rugby union. Its governing body, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), was established in 1881, the same year that Wales played their first international against England. The team plays its home matches at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, which replaced Cardiff Arms Park as the national stadium of Wales in 1999.
The 2011 Rugby World Cup was the seventh Rugby World Cup, a quadrennial international rugby union competition inaugurated in 1987. The International Rugby Board (IRB) selected New Zealand as the host country in preference to Japan and South Africa at a meeting in Dublin on 17 November 2005. The tournament was won by New Zealand, who defeated France 8–7 in the final. The defending champions, South Africa, were eliminated by Australia 11–9 in the quarter-finals. The result marked the third time that the tournament was won by the country that hosted the event.
The Canada national rugby union team represents Canada in men's international rugby union competitions and it is governed by Rugby Canada, and play in red and white. Canada is classified by World Rugby as a tier two rugby nation. Canada competes in competitions such as the Americas Rugby Championship and the Rugby World Cup.
The 2015 Rugby World Cup was the eighth Rugby World Cup, the quadrennial rugby union world championship. The tournament was hosted by England from 18 September to 31 October. Of the 20 countries competing in the World Cup in 2011, there was only one change: Uruguay replaced Russia. This was the first World Cup with no new teams to the tournament.
Rugby World Cup records have been accumulating since the first Rugby World Cup tournament was held in 1987.
The first Rugby World Cup was held in 1987, hosted by Australia and New Zealand who pushed for the tournament to be approved. Since the first tournament, 8 others have been held at four-year intervals.
The Rugby World Cup host nation is selected by World Rugby at a meeting six years before each tournament. Each of the Rugby World Cups from 1987 to 2015 were hosted by countries that are considered the traditional powers in World Rugby. The first non Rugby Championship or Six Nations country to host a Rugby World Cup was Japan in 2019, after failed bids for the 2011 and 2015 tournaments.
The 1993 Rugby World Cup Sevens was held at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, Scotland, in April 1993. This tournament was the inaugural Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament. The International Rugby Board invited the established rugby union nations but also were keen to involve emerging nations in the event, recognising the fact that Sevens was providing the bridge between the developed rugby nations and those whose rugby union traditions were less well established.
The Russia national rugby union team, nicknamed Medvedi, represents Russia in men's international rugby union international competitions. The team is administered by the Rugby Union of Russia (RUR). The RUR is considered the official successor union of the Soviet Union by World Rugby and the combined CIS team which played in the early 1990s. Since 1992, the team has played as Russia. Its first test match as Russia was against the Barbarians in Moscow in June 1992 and the country's first test against an official Test nation was against Belgium later that same year.
The 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup was the sixth edition of the Women's Rugby World Cup and was held in England. The International Rugby Board Executive Committee selected the host union following a recommendation from the Rugby World Cup Limited board after considering bids from the Rugby Football Union and the German Rugby Union – it had been England's third successive bid after being rejected in 2002 and 2006. The tournament was again being organised by the International Rugby Board (IRB) as opposed to the host union, and included five matches for all teams played on 20, 24, 28 August and 1 and 5 September. In May 2009 it was announced that the semi final, 3rd place play off and final would take place at The Stoop and not Twickenham as had previously been suggested. Pool games were held at the Surrey Sports Park in Guildford.
2011 Rugby World Cup qualifying began at the 2007 tournament in France, where twelve teams earned a place in the finals of the tournament, this automatically qualified them for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup was the ninth edition of the Rugby World Cup, the quadrennial world championship for men's rugby union teams. It was hosted in Japan from 20 September to 2 November in 12 venues all across the country. The opening match was played at Ajinomoto Stadium in Chōfu, Tokyo, with the final match being held at International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama. This was the first time that the tournament had taken place in Asia and outside the traditional Tier 1 rugby nations.
The Rugby World Cup is a rugby union tournament held every four years and contested by the men's national teams of the member unions of World Rugby. The Wales national rugby union team has participated in all nine Rugby World Cup tournaments. Up to and including 2015, hosting of the tournament alternated between traditional rugby heartlands in the southern hemisphere and those in Europe. Wales was the primary host in 1999, with Cardiff's Millennium Stadium built to coincide with the event, and the other three tournaments played in Europe have also used venues in Wales to some degree. Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and its predecessor, the Cardiff Arms Park, will have hosted a total 21 matches over a total of four World Cups. This is the largest number of World Cup games hosted by one venue.
The Japan national team have competed in every Rugby World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987. They are so far the only team to reach the Rugby World Cup through Asian regional qualifying. In 2019, they progressed to the quarterfinals for the first time in their participation, making them the first Asian team to do so in the tournament.
The 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup was the seventh edition of the Women's Rugby World Cup, and the sixth held in Europe. The World Cup Final took place on 17 August.
The history of the Wales national rugby union team from 2005 to present covers a period where the side won four Grand Slams in the Six Nations Championship, as well as another Championship victory. The Grand Slams, in all the tournament matches, were achieved in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2019. Their other Six Nations Championship, in 2013, was won without achieving a Grand Slam. The country has not enjoyed as much success against the major southern hemisphere opposition of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. New Zealand have not been defeated by Wales since 1953, and South Africa have only been defeated five times since 2005: a 12–6 victory in 2014, a 27–13 victory in 2016, a 24–22 victory in 2017, a 24–22 victory in Washington DC in 2018 followed by a 20–11 win in Cardiff in 2018. Wales defeated Australia in November 2005, and also in November 2008. Following this, Wales suffered a thirteen-match losing streak to the Wallabies. This ended in 2018, when Wales defeated Australia 9–6.
The 2021 Rugby World Cup is scheduled to be the ninth edition of the Rugby World Cup for women, to be held in New Zealand in the cities of Auckland and Whangārei. It was originally to be held in 2021, but was officially postponed by a year in March 2022 due to COVID-19. This will be the first women's Rugby World Cup to be held in the southern hemisphere. The eighth World Cup was played in 2017 in Dublin and Belfast, setting record attendances and viewership numbers.
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