As with all things in Test rugby, it began with appealing to the unions. For years, the Aussies had been trying to get the hint of an RWC off the ground, but it wasn’t until they combined forces with New Zealand for a joint offer in 1985, that they pressed through the global rugby football board laterally the IRB and today World Rugby to land the tournament.
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Theoretically, the biggest swell of support came from the southern unions and France, with England and Wales in the north supposedly won over. In the end, the vote frayed past at 10-6 with Australia and New Zealand named co-hosts of the initial competition in 1987.
The initial one RWC
That first competition in 1987 was held across 11 places in Australia and New Zealand, with the Rugby World Cup Final held at Eden Park, Auckland. There were 16 sides taking part. This comprised the seven-member unions of the then IRFB Australia, England, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales (South Africa was isolated and boycotted due to the apartheid government).
Plus, the requested nations: are Argentina, Canada, Italy, Fiji, Japan, Romania, Tonga, USA and Zimbabwe. New Zealand became the first-ever champions of the Webb Ellis Cup, thrashing France 29-9 in the final. Kiwi Grant Fox was the competition’s top scorer with 126 points rugby’s counting system was different in 1987, while nationals Craig Green and John Kirwan were joint-top try-scorers, with six each.
Numerous crowds for the 1991 Rugby World Cup
Four years later, the next world cup was hosted together by England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and France. And gone was the invite system. After qualification, the host states were joined by: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Italy, Fiji, Japan, New Zealand, Romania, USA, Western Samoa and Zimbabwe. After games played across 19 sites, Australia crushed England by 12-6 at Twickenham.
Irish fly-half Ralph Keys was the top point-scorer, with 68, while the unpredictable David Campese of Australia was the joint-top try-scorer alongside France’s Jean-Baptiste Lafond, with six. For more about knowing Rugby World Cup Tickets click here.
South Africa Rugby World Cup side become part of world cup history
A competition of firsts. First time there was a single host nation. First time South Africa was involved. Zimbabwe and the US didn’t succeed this time, so among the 16 sides was Ivory Coast for the first time, while Tonga made a reappearance. And South Africa won the whole thing, defeating New Zealand by 15–12 in the Rugby World Cup Final.
It was a competition for icons too so while France’s Thierry Lacroix was the top points-scorer, and NZ’s Marc Ellis was one of the two best try-scorers, other men show up in history. The first is the great Jonah Lomu, who blasted onto the scene and was the other top try-scorer. And the second was, of course, Nelson Mandela. The image of him passing the cup to Springboks skipper Francois Pienaar will never be overlooked.
An Australian rugby team double
In 1999, Wales was the authorised host nation although games were also held in England, Ireland, France and Scotland. This was also the first competition we had 20 members, with Namibia, Spain, and Uruguay opposing for the first time. In the final, in Cardiff, Australia has beaten France 35-12. The Australians made RWC history, becoming the first side to lift the cup twice.
Pumas ten Gonzalo Quesada was the highest points-scorer just, pipping Matt Burke by a point. And guess who top try-scorer was Lomu, with eight. The 2003 final went down to the wire. With hosts Australia taking on England in Sydney, it came down to a shoot-out between Elton Flatley and Jonny Wilkinson. And we all know what takes place.
After England won their first-ever Rugby World Cup by 20-17, in extra time, the image of Wilkinson’s charming drop-goal went global. He shot off to another level of fame. Expectedly, Wilkinson was the top points-scorer, with 113. Doug Howlett and Mils Muliaina, both NZ, were joint for record tries, with seven each. By the way, this competition was the first time we saw Georgia in an RWC.
France Rugby World Cup 2007
Initially, let’s address the yin and yang of the 2007 RWC hosts France was uncomfortable on their big opening night when Argentina shocked France by 17-12. And los Pumas became the loves of the competition, ultimately finishing third beating, you predicted it, France again in that bronze game. Portugal made their World Cup bow, too. Last World Cup’s winners England also got off to a rotten start, humbled in their second game 36-0 by the Boks.
But they reformed and would see the same South African side in the final in Paris. There were no tries in the final though the ‘Oh no, was he in touch?!’ instant with England wing Mark Cueto absorbed us all and it was steady 15-6, with Percy Montgomery and Frans Steyn doing the trade for South Africa. Their second world trophy. Montgomery top recorded in the competition, 105, while Bryan Habana got the most attempts, with eight.
New Zealand host RWC again
Having gone through what felt like a continuous cycle of being the best side on the planet between World Cups but not cutting the big competitions, New Zealand got the monkey off their back in 2011, on its territory. They beat France by 8-7 in a brave final, though, and it all fell to an unlikely hero. Fly-half Stephen Donald wasn’t in the early Rugby World Cup squad. For more about knowing RWC Tickets click here.
But after a string of unlucky injuries saw Donald called into the team for the semi-finals legendarily, coming in from a fishing trip it was written in the stars. He was idle in the semis, but an injury to Aaron Cruden saw him come on in the final, and he landed one telling kick. The stuff of legends. Morne Steyn counted the most points, with 62, while Christ Ashton and Vincent Clerc had six attempts each. But Donald’s were the most significant.
Then win a third RWC title
New Zealand made Rugby World Cup history, becoming the first team to lift the title three times. In England in 2015, they saw off Australia 34-17, with the great Dan Carter man of the game. The competition will also be recalled for England crashing out of their contest in the group stages. Oh, and Japan beating South Africa in the ‘Miracle of Brighton’ is surely the greatest upset the contest has ever seen.
Nicolas Sanchez of Argentina top recorded 97 points, while Julian Savea of New Zealand nabbed the most attempts, with eight. In 2019, the RWC was held in Asia for the first time, with Japan as the host state. And they got out of the group stages for the first time in their history, after beating Ireland and Scotland the last would not progress from the group.
Japan would come a cropper against South Africa in the semi-finals, and from there the South Africa rugby World Cup would carry on winning. Fuelled by their loss to New Zealand in the groups, they built and built until they met England in the end, cleaning them in a way not seen for the rest of the competition. They succeeded by 32-12, with the contest blessed with another iconic image, as Siya Kolisi lifted the trophy.
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