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Rugby World Cup History

The Rugby World Cup is a premier international rugby union tournament held every four years, featuring top teams from around the world.

2011 New Zealand Rugby World Cup ball2011 New Zealand Rugby World Cup ball

The World Cup idea is born

In June 1983 Australia proposed a World Cup and put itself as host, and the following year New Zealand put forward its case. In a major breakthrough, The International Rugby Board instigated a World Cup feasibility study, with Australia and New Zealand forming a joint working committee and the study began in December 1984.

At a meeting in Paris on 20-21 March 1985, the International Rugby Board held a vote on the concept. It was no secret that England, Scotland, Ireland & Wales were opposed to the idea, with Australia, New Zealand & France in favor. South Africa's crucial vote went in favor of the event, then when England and Wales changed their mind and voted in favor the World Cup finally had the go ahead.

The first Rugby World Cup

The inaugural World Cup event was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. Teams from 16 countries competed, and the final was won by New Zealand (more about 1987)


From 1987 to 1995, 16 teams contested the final rounds after qualifying matches involving all the other International Rugby Board member unions over a two-year period. In 1999 the competition expanded to 20 teams playing off for the final.

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Rugby World Cup Extra

The next men's Rugby World Cup will be played in France in 2023. See the list of winners, and more firsts and other trivia, and also information about each country at the World Cup. There is also a Women's World Cup.

Major Events Extra

The largest sporting event in the world is the Olympic Games, but there are many other multi-sport games. In terms of single sport events, nothing beats the FIFA World Cup. To see what's coming up, check out the calendar of major sporting events.

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