The World Cup
The Rugby World Cup is the premier international rugby union competition. The inaugural world cup was held in 1987 and was hosted by Australia and New Zealand. The world cup is contested every four years and is one of the largest international sporting competitions in the world. Before the creation of the world cup, there were only regional international competitions, notably the Six Nations Championship. The Six Nations Championship started was in 1883 and includes England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, and Italy. In the southern hemisphere, the equivalent competition is the Tri Nations series held between Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, which began in 1996.
The idea of a Rugby World Cup had been suggested on numerous occasions going back to the 1950s, but was met with opposition from most unions in the IRFB. The idea resurfaced several times in the early 1980s, with the Australian Rugby Union and the New Zealand Rugby Union independently writing to the IRFB seeking to conduct a World Cup tournament. In 1985, Australia, New Zealand and France were in favor of a world cup and, despite knowing that the international sports boycott of the apartheid regime would prevent their participation, the South African delegates also voted in favor, which was vital in tying the vote 8-8. When one English delegate followed by a Welsh delegate switched sides, the IRFB finally approved the inaugural cup, by 10 votes to 6.
In the inaugural world cup, the All Blacks (New Zealand) became the first ever champions, defeating France twenty-nine points to nine in the final. They are to host the 2011 tournament.
The winners are awarded the William Webb Ellis Cup. According to myth, William Webb Ellis was the Rugby School pupil who invented the game by picking up the ball during a game akin to one of the many codes of medieval football. South Africa are the current World Champions, having won the 2007 Rugby World Cup final in France. The hosts for 2015 and 2019 will be England and Japan respectively.