Story: Rugby union

Page 9. Rugby World Cup

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First cup

After rejecting two proposals, the International Rugby Board (now World Rugby) agreed reluctantly to a world cup in the mid-1980s. World Rugby now counts the cup as its main income source and calls it one of the top three sporting events in the world (after the Olympic Games and the football world cup). New Zealand and Australia were successful with a joint proposal for 1987, the year chosen to avoid a clash with those other events. Sixteen countries played in the first tournament in New Zealand and Australia. It was won by the All Blacks, who defeated France 29–9 in the final.

Food for thought

The 1995 World Cup final was a dramatic affair. Both the Springboks and All Blacks were undefeated and at the end of normal time the score was locked at 9–9. In extra time both sides kicked a penalty, and seven minutes from the end Joel Stransky kicked the winning dropped goal for South Africa. Afterwards the All Blacks revealed that most of them had suffered from food poisoning in the two days before the match. Some vomited on the pitch. It was speculated, but never proven, that they had been deliberately poisoned by a waitress at their hotel.

Lack of success, 1991–2007

South Africa was excluded from the first two cups because of the country’s apartheid policy. Qualifying rounds were introduced for the 1991 cup, which was played in the United Kingdom, Ireland and France. The All Blacks were eliminated in a semi-final in Dublin by Australia. They were beaten in the final in 1995 by hosts South Africa, lost a semi-final to France in 1999 in London, lost a semi-final to Australia in Sydney in 2003, and were beaten in a quarter-final by France in Cardiff in 2007.

2011 World Cup

Twenty years of national anguish ended in 2011. The All Blacks narrowly won the Webb Ellis Cup 8–7 over France, when the final was played at Eden Park in Auckland for the second time. With New Zealand sole host of the tournament of 24 teams, the 2011 cup was a major social and cultural event which attracted more than 100,000 overseas visitors.

2015 World Cup

In the 2015 World Cup, hosted by England, the All Blacks defeated Australia in the final 34-17 to become the first team to win back-to-back titles and the first team to win the cup three times.

2019 World Cup

The All Blacks were favoured to win a third consecutive Webb Ellis Cup in a tournament played in Japan. They finished third after a semi-final capitulation to England, who were beaten by South Africa in the final.

How to cite this page:

Ron Palenski, 'Rugby union - Rugby World Cup', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 April 2024)

Story by Ron Palenski, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 1 Sep 2016