What is the Rugby World Cup?

The winning team is awarded the William Web Ellis Cup. Editorial credit: Paolo Bona / Shutterstock.com
The winning team is awarded the William Web Ellis Cup. Editorial credit: Paolo Bona / Shutterstock.com

The world Rugby Cup refers to the rugby tournament that takes place every four years whereby the top international men’s rugby teams contest for the championship. The tournament was first held in 1987, hosted jointly by New Zealand and Australia. In the first tournament, 16 teams were invited to participate. In the most recent World Rugby Cup, New Zealand defeated Australia in the finals of the 2015 tournament which was held in England. The World Rugby Cup is managed by World Rugby. The next tournament of the World Rugby Cup will be held in 2019 in Japan. The 2023 event will be hosted in France.


Prior to the formation of the World Rugby Cup, there was no international rugby tournament. There were just a few rugby events, but they did not receive much recognition as the World Rugby Cup. Suggestions to form a Rugby World Cup were first discussed in the 1950s but not much was done. In the 1980s, the idea resurfaced. This time around, the idea was successfully discussed and the tournament was founded. The successful formation of the tournament is attributed to the Australian and New Zealand Rugby Unions who advocated for the formation of Rugby Cup in 1983 and 1987 respectively. The idea was taken for discussion and voting by the IRFB in 1985, passing by 10-6. Delegates from Australia, New Zealand, France, and South Africa supported the proposal and voted for it. Delegates from Ireland and Scotland were against the formation of the tournament. The remaining delegates, the English and Welsh, were divided.


The winners of the tournament are awarded the William Webb Ellis Cup. The award was named after William Webb Ellis, who is considered to be the founding father of rugby. Webb Ellis is recognized to have invented rugby after picking up the ball during a football match. In the first tournament, the William Webb Ellis Cup, or simply referred to as the Rugby World Cup, was selected as an award for the winning team. The cup was made in 1906 by Garrard’s Crown Jewellers. The 38 centimeter tall trophy is silver gilded in gold.

Since its founding, only four countries have had a share of the championship. New Zealand has won the cup three times, Australia and South Africa have each won the tournament cup twice, and England has won the cup once.


The choice of the host of the tournaments is usually reached upon after a vote by the World Rugby Council Members. The voting process, which is usually kept a secret, is managed by a team of independent auditors. The choice of host is usually decided upon five or six years prior to the actual tournament. For instance, as already stated, the 2019 and 2023 hosts have already been chosen. For a country to qualify as a host, The World Rugby requires it to have a venue which can accommodate at least 60,000 spectators for the final match. Alternatively, the host country can opt to build new or upgrade their already existing stadium for the purposes of the tournament. Japan has received the honor of being the first nation outside the renowned rugby traditional nations of SANZAAR to host the tournament.


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