Every 4 years the world’s best teams battle for the ultimate prize in rugby. Read on to discover 21 fun facts about the Rugby World Cup.
The Rugby World Cup. It’s the pinnacle of the sport, the one trophy every nation desperately wants.
Since 1987, the Rugby World Cup has been entertaining fans with epic matches, incredible comebacks and bitter rivalries. The 2003 Rugby World Cup final springs to mind here!
While it may not be the beautiful game, it certainly is the brutal one. There are huge hits, scrum porn, and often a fair few handbags being thrown around too. And at the Rugby World Cup, the stakes are higher than in any other tournament.
Keep on reading to uncover some fun facts about the Rugby World Cup to amaze your mates before France 2023.
We’ll dive into the history of the Rugby World Cup, the record-breakers, and some controversies as well. From spoiled chicken, to Nelson Mandela, to a 120-year old whistle, these Rugby World Cup facts are sure to surprise you.
The Rugby World Cup in 2023 is set to be a historic event with defending champions South Africa and three-time winners New Zealand vying to become the first team to capture four Rugby World Cup championships.
But watch out for hosts France and team Ireland, who are both looking for their first Rugby World Cup trophy.
Let’s get started on these Rugby World Cup facts and get pumped up for the upcoming tournament! Let’s go!
Table of Contents
21 Fun Facts About the Rugby World Cup
1. We are the champions
Out of the nine editions of the Rugby World Cup, four countries have been victorious.
New Zealand leads the pack with three wins (1987, 2011, 2015) along with South Africa (1995, 2007, 2019). Australia has won the title twice (1991, 1999) and England have only won it once (2003).
2. Perpetual runners up
The 2023 Rugby World Cup hosts France are perhaps the unluckiest team in Rugby World Cup history. They’ve been to three finals but have lost every time.
They are one of the most consistent teams as well, making it to at least the quarterfinals at all nine Rugby World Cups.
3. France or Ireland?
This bad luck for France could change in the 2023 Rugby World Cup as they come in as one of the favorites and ranked #2 in the world.
Their main competitor for a first title will be Ireland who are ranked world #1. Who do you have tapped for the win?
4. The teams at every world cup
There are 10 countries that have been at every Rugby World Cup since 1987. New Zealand, Australia, England, France, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Japan, Italy and Argentina.
Out of these countries, Italy is the only team to never make it to the quarterfinals.
5. Finals rivalry
The first Rugby World Cup final in 1987 saw home-team New Zealand defeat France 29-9 in front of 48,000 die-hard fans at Eden Park in Auckland.
Amazingly, New Zealand and France would fight for another title in 2011 at the exact same stadium. New Zealand won again 8-7 in front of an astonishing 61,000 fans. This was one of the closest finals in rugby history.
6. Try, try again
A try in rugby is similar to a touchdown in American football, and some players have a knack for scoring on the biggest stage like the Rugby World Cup.
Jonah Lomu of New Zealand and Bryan Habana of South Africa hold the record for the top try scorers in Rugby World Cup history with 15 tries each.
7. Jonny can score
Jonny Wilkinson of England was the undisputed MVP of the 2003 Rugby World Cup, becoming the top points-scorer ever with 277.
One try, 28 conversions, 58 penalties and 14 drop goals. He was named Man of the Match in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final where England defeated Australia 20-17.
8. Rugby ironmen
Jason Leonard of England and Richie McCaw of New Zealand hold the record for the most matches played in the Rugby World Cup with 22.
This record is in danger however, as Welshman Alun Wyn Jones is set to kit up for Wales at the 2023 Rugby World Cup as he sits on 21 games played so far.
9. The glorious trophy
The Webb Ellis Cup is the trophy presented to the winners of the Rugby World Cup. The sterling silver trophy with a 24-carat gold plating was made in 1906 and stands 38 cm (14 in) tall and weighs 4.5 kg (9.9 lbs).
10. The man behind the trophy
Who was Webb Ellis you ask? The man with his name on the Rugby World Cup trophy is credited for inventing Rugby in 1823.
The story is that Ellis picked up the football during a match and ran with it, hence bestowing rugby on the world. Some historians argue this, claiming the story is nothing but a myth.
11. The ceremonial whistle
Here’s one of the coolest Rugby World Cup facts that we discovered. The same whistle is blown at every opening game of the Rugby World Cup. A tradition that dates back to when the whistle was first used in 1905.
In 2019, the whistle went on a world-wide journey, a la the Olympic Flame, that covered 20,000 km (12,147 mi) before being delivered to the opening match in Tokyo.
12. Showing no mercy
Let’s talk about some lopsided rugby matches at the Rugby World Cup. The most points scored during a match was New Zealand defeating Japan 145-17 in 1995.
The biggest winning margin goes to Australia in 2003 when they crushed Namibia 142-0. This record may never be broken!
13. What’s in a name?
Most countries competing in the Rugby World Cup have a team name that is a source of great national pride.
Some of the most revered nicknames in the sport include the All Blacks (New Zealand), Wallabies (Australia), Springboks (South Africa), Dragons (Wales), Red and Whites (England) and Les Bleus (France).
14. Women’s championship
The Women’s Rugby World Cup has been held since 1991 with New Zealand dominating the world with an incredible six championships (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2017, 2021) out of nine.
The other winners are England with two victories (1994, 2014) and the US with one (1991).
15. The defending champs
South Africa will be looking to repeat as Rugby World Cup champions for the first time in 2023 and to win a 4th overall World Cup putting them ahead of New Zealand.
The Springboks defeated England in 2019 by a score of 32-12 in front of 70,000 spectators at International Stadium in Yokohama, Japan.
16. Spoiled chicken or sore losers?
Before the Rugby World Cup final of 1995 most of the New Zealand side came down with a bad case of food poisoning.
While some claimed sabotage was afoot, the South African team who beat New Zealand 15-12 in the final called the All Blacks out for blaming their loss on an imaginary illness.
17. A historic event and victory
The 1995 Rugby World Cup will be remembered for a lot more than food poisoning. The Rugby World Cup was the first major sporting event to be held in South Africa following the end of apartheid.
Nelson Mandela was on hand to present the championship trophy to the home team.
18. An important film
If you want to learn more about the 1995 Rugby World Cup and its historic implications for race relations in South African sport, the event was adapted into a movie.
Invictus (2009), starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as South African rugby team captain, Francois Pienaar, went on to be nominated for 2 Academy Awards.
19. Attendance records broken
The largest crowds ever for Rugby World Cup matches were at Wembley Stadium in England in 2015.
An enormous stadium with a capacity of close to 90,000, Wembley saw 89,267 fans at the Ireland vs Romania group stage match and 89,019 for the New Zealand vs Argentina match.
20. Quick Rugby World Cup facts
The Rugby World Cup is the third largest sporting event in the world after the World Cup and the Olympic Games.
The 2015 Rugby World Cup saw an overall attendance record of 2,477,805.
16 teams played in the Rugby World Cup until 1999 when the field was expanded to 20.
21. In the red
A red card in rugby is quite a rare occurrence due to the violent nature of the game. In total 25 players have been red carded in the history of the Rugby World Cup.
Welshman Huw Richards received the first red card in 1987. Amazingly, no player has ever been red carded twice.
Who wants more fun facts?
If you’re looking for some recommendations, these are a few of our favorite fact books to buy. We use these when planning fun trivia nights with family and friends!
Did these fun facts about the Rugby World Cup get you excited for the upcoming tournament?
And who are you backing to be the next champions to hoist the trophy? Let us know in the comments!