Many of us are already buzzing with excitement for the Rugby World Cup 2015, where the competition will return to the home of rugby for the first time in 23 years. Next September 20 nations will descend upon Wembley, the Millennium Stadium, Twickenham and many more to crown the successors to 2011’s All Blacks as world champions.
We’re all hoping that next year’s tournament will bring out the best in players, make new records, and maybe even include a few surprises. From Jonny Wilkinson’s 2003 drop goal to Sam Warburton’s controversial red card three years ago, the World Cup never fails to entertain. And in the unpredictable but entertaining spirit of this greatest of sporting spectacles, I’ve looked at some of the most interesting and surprising facts about the Rugby World Cup.
We’ll start at the beginning. Did you know that prior to the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, the United States of America were technically the reigning champions? The current 18th best team in the world held the top spot because they won the gold medal for rugby at the Olympics – in 1924. They were joined in 1987 by a number of invite-only teams, such as Argentina and Japan, but controversially not the talented Western Samoa. The Springboks were also unable to participate, due to the international sporting boycott resulting from apartheid. Needless to say that by the conclusion of the tournament the Americans had lost their title, with New Zealand beating France in a final that would be repeated to the same result some 24 years later.
From Jason Robinson’s electric sprint to the corner against Australia, to Jonah Lomu’s creative use of Mike Catt as a doormat, the Rugby World Cup has set the stage for some of the greatest tries of all time. But despite this, there has emerged a tradition of low-scoring final matches. In fact, there have been only 11 tries scored in all seven Rugby World Cup finals! South Africa appear to be the main offenders, winning try-less final matches to take the title in both 1995 and 2007.
At the other end of the spectrum, and usually in the group stages, the World Cup has also brought us some of the highest scoring games on record. In 1995 the All Blacks smashed Japan by 145 points to 17, racking up an impressive 21 tries in the 80 minutes. The Aussies enjoyed a similar 142-0 win over Namibia in 2003, with two hat tricks and an impressive five tries for Chris Latham.
New Zealand have enjoyed a positive spell of rugby since their cup-winning defeat of France at Eden Park in 2011, and will be looking to continue their domination of world rugby going into 2015. There is no doubt that they will make it difficult for England in this year’s test internationals, but if statistics are anything to go by then the All Blacks are unlikely to lift the Webb Ellis trophy next year. In the history of the competition, no single captain or coach has ever led his team to consecutive World Cup victories. Could this be bad news for Richie McCaw and the men in black?
On the other hand, the winners of the Six Nations tournaments have always gone on to perform well against the rest of the world’s teams. Six Nations champions have never failed to reach the semi finals at the same year’s Rugby World Cup, with France (1987) and England (1991, 2003) both going on to reach the finals. We still have next year’s Six Nations tournament to enjoy before we kick off Rugby World Cup 2015, so it will be interesting to see whether or not the eventual winners will keep up this tradition.
Next year the Rugby World Cup will return to England for the first time since 1991, and we’re hoping to see the same quality of action and entertainment which we’ve enjoyed every four years since the late 1980’s. Who knows, in a years’ time we may even be able to bring you a new and updated article on Rugby World Cup facts and trivia. Ideally, let’s hope that England can become the fourth team to win the competition in their own back yard.
Do you have any other interesting or surprising facts about the Rugby World Cup? If so, why not share them in the comments section below?