The Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of professional rugby. For almost 20 years now, nations from across the globe compete for the Webb Ellis Cup, which according to popular myth is named after the inventor of Rugby, William Webb Ellis. Like the FIFA World Cup, the Rugby World Cup is contested every four years between countries from Europe, Africa, Asia, North America and of course, Australia. Even though the RWC is generally challenged by 20 nations, only four have lifted the coveted prize, with Australia (1991 & 1999), New Zealand (1987 & 2011) & South Africa (1995 & 2007) winning it twice, and England once back in 2003.
Before the inaugural World Cup in 1987, there was no global tournament. There were still major tournaments , such as the Six Nations Championship & the Bledisloe Cup, but these events only featured the powerhouses of Rugby. Hoping to emulate the success soccer had enjoyed for almost 60 years, World Rugby decided to administer a tournament of their own, pitting 16 teams against each other. The first tournament was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand and not only featured all of the big nations in Rugby, but also featured less prominent rugby playing countries, such as Zimbabwe and Romania.
The first tournament back in 1987 didn’t feature a qualification stage, all 16 places were automatically filled by eligible World Rugby member nations, and the rest were invited. The following year however, a qualification process was introduced and is still used to this day. The teams which finish third or better in the pool stages gain automatic selection into the next World Cup. The final eight spots are settled by regions, with Europe and America allocated two qualifying places each, Africa, Asia and Oceania get one place each and the last place is determined by a play-off match.
While you would think the host nation would have the home ground advantage, it is not always the case. Since its inception, only three nations have lifted the cup on home soil. New Zealand has done it in both their World Cup victories, and South Africa achieved this feat in their 1995 victory. Even though it seems being the host nation may be the poison chalice that robs a country of glory, there are still some bonuses of hosting the world tournament, with all but one host nation finishing in the final four since the World Cup began.
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|YEAR||WINNER||RUNNERS UP||HOST NATION(s)|
|2011||NEW ZEALAND||FRANCE||NEW ZEALAND|
|1995||SOUTH AFRICA||NEW ZEALAND||SOUTH AFRICA|
|1991||AUSTRALIA||ENGLAND||ENGLAND, SCOTLAND, IRELAND & WALES|
|1987||NEW ZEALAND||FRANCE||AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND|