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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rugby World Cup History

How it all began

The IRB held their annual board meeting on 20-21st March 1985 at the French Railways HQ in Paris. Each member nation had a single vote and the motion was carried 6 (Australia, England, France, New Zealand, South Africa, Wales) to 2 (Ireland and Scotland). It would be staged jointly by Australia and New Zealand from the 22nd May to the 20th June 1987. This gave the two host nations approx. two years to prepare.

Two companies in the early 80s approached the IRFB. West Nally, a British company and IMG a trans-continental company with its base in the USA. Both proposals were rejected.

In 1983 Gideon Lloyd International and Neil Durden-Smith who were both involved in sports promotion and public relations in London also made a proposal but once again the idea was turned down.

At that time the Rugby Unions were fighting a losing battle against professionalism and a RWC was seen as a step in the wrong direction.

Late 1983 the Australian Rugby Union and New Zealand Rugby Football Union submitted written proposals to the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB). Neither was aware of the other's proposal with Australia wanting to stage a tournament to coincide with their Bicentenary in 1988 and New Zealand proposing the previous year. Both proposals were turned down but Australian, Sir Nicholas Shehadie talked to Seb Blaze in New Zealand and suggested they pool resources so that’s what they did, they worked together on a feasibility study for the first world cup, to be presented at the IRFB's annual meeting in March 1985.

The two Unions settled on 1987 as the year, thereby avoiding any clash with the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup, and a vote was held on the proposal at the IRFB meeting in the French capital Paris.

The vote between the eight IRFB members - Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales - came down in favour of a Rugby World Cup by six votes to two. For the world cup were Australia, England, France, New Zealand, Wales (after being persuaded by their treasurer) and South Africa even though they knew they would not be allowed to play in the tournament due to their political situation (apartheid regime). Ireland and Scotland were against the proposal as it appeared to threaten the amateur status of the sport, while France were in favour only if countries from outside the IRFB were invited to take part.

The decision was a massive one. It ensured that a tournament - there were no plans for a second at that stage - would be run by the world body and not businessmen and television companies interested in simply making money.

This green light left little more than two years to lay the foundations of a tournament, which finally provided the vehicle to establish a 'world champion' and would be held in New Zealand with Australia as co-hosts.

Argentina were invited to take South Africa's place with other invitations extended to Fiji, Tonga, Japan, Canada, Romania, Zimbabwe, Italy and the United States for the 16-team tournament to be held in May and June 1987.

The 16 teams were split into four pools of four, three of which were based in New Zealand with the other, featuring Australia, hosted in Sydney and Brisbane. The top two nations in each pool would progress to the quarter finals.

The All Blacks were expected to win the tournament and had the chance to prove they were the dominant force in world rugby. Before the tournament started the All blacks were told by Brian Lahore their coach that they were playing for 100 years of New Zealand rugby playing tradition, because they had been world champions without the cup to prove it. – Better not lose.

The inaugural match between New Zealand and Italy took place on 22 May at Eden Park in Auckland. Before the game the all blacks performed the ha ka for the first time on home soil and in the opening game against Italy John Kirwan of New Zealand scored one of the best tries ever scored in the RWC. The hosts won the game easily 70-6 and one which went a long way to uniting a country divided by the Cavaliers' tour of South Africa in April 1986.

New Zealand won through to the semi finals against Wales after brushing Scotland aside, Wales went the same way and New Zealand were in the first World cup final.

The other semi-final was Aus vs. France and this proved to be a very exciting game since France just kept attacking and attacking. But Australia kept coming back. France pulled off the win in the final minutes with a Serge Blanco try.

The All blacks then won the final 29-9 at Eden Park and although France were well beaten they consoled themselves with the knowledge that it was a story book finish for New Zealand who’s status in world rugby had finally been realized.

That inaugural tournament saw 600,000 people pass through the turnstiles with 300 million in 17 countries watching the action on television, figures that would increase to 1.75 million and three billion in 140 countries respectively for the 1999 event.

The Rugby World Cup is now established as the third biggest sporting event behind the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup, having achieved its goal of merging the traditional powers with new and emerging nations to make Rugby a truly global sport.

One person who played a key role in this journey was the late Vernon Pugh QC, the International Rugby Board and Rugby World Cup Ltd Chairman. Pugh's energy and vision was instrumental in expanding of the governing body to include 94 full members and in building the profile of the sport's showpiece event.

It may also interest you to know that Rugby League's World Cup was first held in 1954.

The first Rugby League World Cup was held in France in 1954. The prime motivators behind the idea of holding rugby league world cup were the French, who were short of money following the seizing of their assets by the rugby union in World War II. They had campaigned for it since 1935. In January 1952 the idea gained momentum. At a meeting held in Blackpool, England, November 1953, the International Board accepted Paul Barrie’s proposal that France should be the nation to host the inaugural Rugby League World Cup.

The World Cup was initially contested by the four Test nations: Australia, Great Britain, France and New Zealand). The teams played each other in a league format.

A group stage was held first, with Great Britain topping the table as a result of points difference. They went on to defeat France (who finished second in the table, level on points) in the final, which was held at the Charlety Stadium, Paris, in front of around 30,000 spectators.

Group stages

October 30: France 22 - 13 New Zealand (Paris)
October 31: Australia 13 - 28 Great Britain (Lyon)
November 7: France 13 - 13 Great Britain (Toulouse)
November 7: Australia 34 - 15 New Zealand (Marseilles)
November 11: Great Britain 26 - 6 New Zealand (Bordeaux)
November 11: France 15 - 5 Australia (Nantes)

League standings

Team Played W D L For Against Diff Pts
Great Britain 3 2 1 0 67 32 35 5
France 3 2 1 0 50 31 19 5
Australia 3 1 0 2 52 58 -6 2
New Zealand 3 0 0 3 34 82 -48 0


November 13: France 12 - 16 Great Britain (Charlety Stadium, Paris)

The second World Cup in Australia in 1957. Australia proved victorious on their home ground after ending up top opf the ladder.

After the successful 1960 competition, in which Great Britain won the title for the second time, there would be no further World Cup for 8 years. The competition had be scheduled to be held in France in 1965, but after an unsuccessful tour of Australia, the French withdrew. The tournament was next held in 1968, and followed a 2 year cycle until the mid-1970s. The 1972 World Cup final ended in a 10-all draw, and the title was awarded to Great Britain by virtue of their superior record in the qualifiers.

In 1975 the competition underwent its most radical overhaul to date. It was decided to play matches on a home and away basis around the world, instead of in any one host nation. Furthermore, the Great Britain team was spilt into England and Wales. Australia won that tournament, and in 1977 it was decided that Great Britain should once more compete as a single entity. Although the final between Australia and Great Britain was a closely fought affair, public interest in the tournament waned due to the continuing tinkering with the format, and it would not be held again until the mid-1980s.

From 1985 to 1988, each nation played each other a number of times on a home and away basis. At the end of that period Australia met New Zealand at Eden Park. The match was a physical encounter, and Australian captain Wally Lewis played part of the match with a broken arm. The Kangaroos won the competition 25-12. This format was repeated from 1989-1992, and Australia defeated Great Britain 10-6 at Wembley Stadium in front of 72,000 people. This crowd remains a rugby league World Cup record.

In 1995 the competition was once again restructured, and the largest number of teams to date, 10, entered. New teams competing included Fiji, Tonga Samoa and South Africa. The tournament, which was also held to celebrate the centenary of the sport in England, was highly successful with over 250,000 people attending the group stages and over 66,000 people attending the final to see Australia defeat England 16-8 in the final.

The 2000 world cup expanded the field further, with 16 teams entering. Blown out scorelines ensured that this tournament was not as successful as the previous one. Ten teams are to compete in the next World Cup in Australia in 2008. It has also been announced that a further tournament will be held in Great Britain in 2012

1954 World Cup Champions - Great Britain
Great Britain defeated France 16-12 in the first ever 'Rugby' World Cup Final, played in Paris. The 1954 World Cup was played in France.

1957 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia won by virtue of being at the top of the ladder. Followed games in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia defeating New Zealand 25-5, Great Britain 31-6 and France 26-9.

1960 World Cup Champions - Great Britain
Great Britain won by virtue of being at the top of the ladder. Great Britain defeated Australia 10-3 at Odsal Stadium in England. Both Great Britain and Australia were undefeated coming into the match.

1968 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated France 20-2 in the World Cup Final in Sydney. The 1968 World Cup was played in Australia and New Zealand.

1970 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated Great Britain 12-7 in the World Cup Final in Leeds. The 1970 World Cup was played in England.

1972 World Cup Champions - Great Britain
Great Britain and Australia played a 10-all draw in Lyon, France. Great Britain were declared World Cup winners by virtue of being undefeated.

1975 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia won by virtue of being at the top of the ladder, one point ahead of England. The 1975 World Cup was played in Australia, New Zealand, England, Wales and France and was spread over the entire year. Great Britain was divided into the two home nations of England and Wales.

1977 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated Great Britain 13-12 in the World Cup Final in Sydney. The 1977 World Cup was played in Australia and New Zealand.

1985-1988 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated New Zealand 25-12 in the World Cup Final in Auckland. Played internationally over four seasons, the ninth World Cup tournament saw the introduction of Papua-New Guinea.

1989-1992 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated Great Britain 10-6 in the World Cup Final in front of 76,631 people at Wembley Stadium in London.

1995 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated England 16-8 in the World Cup Final in London. The 1995 World Cup, played in England, saw the introduction of more rugby league nations as well Great Britain being divided into home nations. The Australian Rugby League announced that matches played by the Kangaroos would be given ARL Test match status.

2000 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated New Zealand 40-12 in the World Cup Final in Manchester. The 2000 World Cup was played in Great Britain and France. Great Britain was divided itself into four home nations. A number of new teams were introduced including NZ Maori and Cook Is. in addition to Lebanon, Russia, Fiji and South Africa.

The next Rugby League World Cup is scheduled for 2008.

The IRB Rugby World Cup (RWC) is now one of the the world's top three sporting competitions(the Olympics and the World Cup of Soccer being the other two).

World Cup Finals

Venue Result Captain Coach Referee
1987 Eden Park
New Zealand 29
France 9
David Kirk Brian Lochore Kerry Fitzgerald (Aust)
1991 Twickenham
Australia 12
England 6
Bob Dwyer Derek Bevan (Wales)
1995 Ellis Park
South Africa 15
New Zealand 12
Francois Pienaar Kitch Christie Ed Morrison (England)
1999 Millenium Stadium
Australia 35
France 12
John Eales Rod Macqueen Andre Watson (South Africa)
2003Telstra Stadium
Australia 17
England 20
Martin Johnson Clive Woodward Andre Watson (South Africa)
2007 Stade de France
South Africa 15
England 6
John Smit Jake White Alain Rolland (Ireland)

Growth of the Rugby World Cup

Year Match Attendance World
Television Audience
Gross Commercial Income Net
1987 600,000 300 million £3.3 million £1.0 million
1991 1 million 1.75 billion £23.6 million £4.1 million
1995 1 million 2.67 billion £30.3 million £17.6 million
1999 1.75 million 3.1 billion £70 million £47.3 million
2003 1.8 million 3.4 billion £81.8 million £64.3 million
2007 2.2 million 4.2 billion £122.4 million

The Famous Whistle

The first game of every world cup to date has been started by the same whistle. The whistle is nearly 100 years old and bears an inscription saying it was used by Gil Evans in the Test match between New Zealand and England in December 1905, a match the All Blacks won 15-0.

This piece of rugby history is also believed to have been used by Albert E. Freethy in the final of the 1924 Olympics in Paris when the United States beat hosts France 17-13 at the Colombes Stadium - the last time the sport of rugby union featured in the Games.

A year later Freethy blew the whistle to dismiss Cyril Brownlie in the Test between New Zealand and England at Twickenham in January 1925, making him the first player to be sent off in an international match.

The whistle has been housed in the New Zealand Rugby Museum in Palmerston North since 16 April 1969 when they held their inaugural function, having been given by Stan Dean, who for many years was the chairman of the NZRFU and manager of the 1924/25 All Blacks.

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