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Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup is an International Rugby Union Competition. The tournament is one of the largest international sporting competitions in the world. The winners are awarded the William Webb Ellis Cup, named after the Rugby School pupil credited with the game's invention.
South Africa are the current World champions, having won the 2007 Rugby World Cup Final in France on 20 October 2007 with victory over England, the 2003 World Champions and current runners-up. The next Rugby World Cup is due to be contested in New Zealand in 2011.
The event is organized by the sport's governing body, the International Rugby Board (IRB), and is contested by the men's national teams.
The inaugural tournament was held in 1987, hosted by both Australia and New Zealand, and is now contested every four years.
Pre World Cup Period
Prior to the Rugby World Cup, there were only regional international rugby union competitions. One of the largest and oldest is the Six Nations Championship, which started in 1883 as the Home Nations championship, a tournament between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Tri Nations series
In the southern hemisphere, the equivalent competition is the Tri Nations series held between Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Rugby union was also played at the Summer Olympics, first appearing at the 1900 Paris games and subsequently at London in 1908, Antwerp in 1920, and Paris again in 1924.
France won the first gold medal, then Australasia, with the last two being won by the United States. However rugby union was soon removed from the Summer Olympic program.
The Start of World Cup
The idea of a Rugby World Cup had been suggested on numerous occasions going back to the 1950s, but met with opposition from most unions in the IRFB.
In 1985, Australia, New Zealand and France were in favour of a world cup and, despite knowing that the international sports boycott on their apartheid regime would prevent their participation, the South African delegates also voted in favour, which was vital in tying the vote 8-8.
When one English delegate followed by a Welsh delegate switched sides, by 10 votes to 6 the IRFB finally approved the inaugural cup, jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand in May and June of 1987.
The Inaugural Tournament
The first tournament was contested in Australia and New Zealand between sixteen nations. The All Blacks (New Zealand) became the first ever champions, defeating France twenty-nine points to nine.
The subsequent 1991 tournament was hosted by England, with matches also being played throughout the rest of Britain, Ireland and France.
The tournament in 1999 was hosted by Wales with matches also being held throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, Ireland and France.
The 2003 event was hosted by Australia; although it was originally intended to be held jointly with New Zealand. England emerged as champions defeating Australia in extra time.
The 2007 competition was hosted by France, with matches also being held in Wales and Scotland. South Africa claimed their second title by defeating defending champions England fifteen points to six. The 2011 tournament was awarded to New Zealand in November 2005, ahead of bids from Japan and South Africa.
The Prize Cup
The Webb Ellis Cup is the prize presented to winners of the Rugby World Cup, named after William Webb Ellis, who is credited with creating the game of rugby football.
It stands at thirty-eight centimeters and is silver gilded in gold, and supported by two cast scroll handles, one handle has a head of a satyr, and the other has a head of a nymph.
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