The Rugby World Cup was established in 1987 and has been held every four years since. Played out between the top national teams in the world, the winners battle for the William Webb Ellis Cup.
Sixteen teams took part in the 1987 tournament, however from 1999 onward twenty teams have participated. The Rugby World Cup tournament is governed by the International Rugby Board (IRB).
The last Rugby World Cup was hosted by New Zealand in 2011. The next Rugby World Cup will be hosted by England in 2015. Japan have been confirmed as the hosts for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in an endeavour to shift the game outside of the traditional six nations that usually host and excel and in the competition.
Webb Ellis CupThe William Webb Ellis Cup was forged in 1906 and selected prior to the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 as the tournament trophy. It is named after William Webb Ellis, who according to popular legend pioneered the game of Rugby Union by holding the football during a game and running with it. He happened to be attending the Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, which is how we now have the name for our sport. The incident is supposed to have happened in 1823. William caught the ball, which was allowed under the rules, but he then ran with it. William seems to have been an outside-the-box thinker, as records also indicate that he occasionally took “unfair advantage at cricket”. Whatever his actions, there are few first-hand accounts, and none reliable. More recent sources have speculated that the legend was largely perpetuated by those at the Rugby School in an endeavour to retain control of the sport, as the official investigation into the myth occurred around the same time as the rift between Rugby League and Rugby Union was becoming apparent.
The Webb Ellis Cup is awarded to the victors of the Rugby World Cup. It has been held by four separate nations since its introduction; New Zealand (twice), Australia (twice), South Africa (twice) and England.
Rugby World Cup Qualification
There were no qualifying rounds in the 1987 Rugby World Cup. Instead, seven member nations of the International Rugby Football Board (now the International Rugby Board (IRB)) along with 9 invitees comprised the 16 competing nations. The 1991 tournament had eight pre-filled places and eight which were won via a 24 nation qualifying competition.
The modern Rugby World Cup format comprises of a total of twenty nations, twelve of which are filled by teams who achieved third or higher in the pool stages at the previous tournament. The remaining eight slots are allocated regionally, with two teams from the Americas, an Asian team, an African team, two European teams and one team from Oceania, with the remaining spot determined via a play-off.
Rugby World Cup Tournament Structure
There are minor changes to tournament structure each time the Rugby World Cup comes around. The 2015 England tournament (likely the same for Japan 2019) will comprise of twenty nations competing over a period of six weeks. There are two stages. During the Group stage, all teams are divided into four pools of five. The top four seeds (as determined by the IRB) are spread across those pools, then ranks 5-8 are spread across the pools, and so on.
Each nation plays all the other nations in their pool once. There is a Bonus Points system, which grants additional points for certain milestones in a game. The Bonus Points system works alongside the normal points allocation for wins and draws and is designed to encourage attacking, try-scoring play. The current format is as follows:
- Win: 4 points
- Draw: 2 points
- Scoring 4 or more tries: 1 point
- Losing by 7 points or fewer: 1 point
If two teams are on equivalent points, there are certain criteria used to separate them. The winner and second-placed team from each pool enter the final stage, which is knock-out. The knock-out stage is comprised of quarter finals, in which the winners of each pool are pitched against the runners-up of a different pool. Quarter-final winners progress to the semi-finals, and the two winning teams from those matches compete in the final. The two losing teams from the semi-finals compete in the Bronze Final for third.
If there is a draw during the knock-out stages, extra time is allocated. If the game is still deadlocked after extra time, it goes into sudden death and the next point wins. If no team scores after extra time and a period of sudden death, the game is resolved via a kicking competition.
Rugby World Cup Results
|2011||New Zealand||New Zealand||8-7||France||Australia|
|1995||South Africa||South Africa||15-12||New Zealand||France|
|1991||Home Nations + France||Australia||12-6||England||New Zealand|
|1987||Australia + New Zealand||New Zealand||29-9||France||Wales|