The Rugby World Cup
The World Cup is the highlight of the men’s Rugby Union calendar, and is played between the top international teams every 4 years. The trophy is the highly prized William Webb Ellis Cup, named after the Rugby School pupil who is credited with inventing the game. Popular legend says he picked up a football and ran with it, giving rise to what would become Rugby. The international governing body, World Rugby, administers the Cup tournament and 20 teams have taken part in every event since 1999.
Before the Rugby World Cup, there were no truly global competitions for Union members. Other tournaments did exist, such as the Six Nations Cup, the Tri-Nations Cup and events in the Summer Olympic Games. From as early as the 1950s, the idea of a unifying world championship was discussed on various occasions but was consistently met with opposition from most national unions. In the 1980s the idea resurfaced, with the New Zealand and Australian Unions independently proposing the establishment of a Rugby World Cup. The International Rugby Football Board approved the idea in 1985 and the inaugural tournament was jointly hosted by New Zealand and Australia in May and June 1987.
The Rugby World Cup has demonstrated the sport’s ability to unite and heal nations in various ways. When England won in 2003 and broke the dominance of southern hemisphere nations in the cup, 750,00 people welcomed them home in the United Kingdom’s largest-ever sporting celebration of this kind. When South Africa won in 1995 after the Apartheid regime was dismantled and international sporting sanctions against the country were lifted, team captain Francois Pienaar was quoted as saying all of South Africa had been behind the players before he accepted the Webb Ellis Cup from Nelson Mandela.
Today, 8 of the 20 positions in the Rugby World Cup are granted through qualifying Tournaments. The qualification system is region-based, meaning Europe and the Americas are each allowed 2 qualifying places and Asia, Africa and Oceania each allowed 1. The last qualifying place is decided by a play-off. The other 12 spots are automatically filled by the teams who finish third or higher in the group stages of the previous tournament.
The tournament itself currently involves a pool stage and a knockout stage. In the pool stage, nations are divided into 4 groups or pools, with 5 teams in each. The teams are seeded, according to Rugby World rankings, and the 4 highest-ranking teams are distributed evenly into the team pools, followed by the next 4. The remaining positions in each group are filled by qualifying nations. Each nation then plays 4 pool games, against all of their respective pool members. Punters during this time already will start placing their wagers at their favourite mobile rugby betting sites online watching the odds as the tournament progresses.
Each pool’s winner and runner-up are then entered into the tournament’s knockout stage, consisting of quarter and semi-finals, and then the ultimate final. The runner-up of each pool is placed against the winner of another pool in the quarter finals, and the winners of these games go on to the semi-finals. The 2 semi-final victors then face off against each other in the finals, while the 2 semi-final losers vie for the third place Bronze Final spot in anther match. Any knockout stage match that ends in a draw triggers extra time play to determine the winner, and if that fails the match goes into sudden death. Here the winner is simply whichever team scores the next point. The rules and setup of the World Cup games have earned them ardent supporters around the world.