In Summary
  • With Mandela wearing the number 6 shirt of Bok skipper Francois Pienaar, and a number of the All Blacks suffering from food poisoning, the hosts clung on to win the trophy thanks to Joel Stransky's extra-time drop goal.
  • The excitement of the event even reached Hollywood, inspiring Clint Eastwood's 2009 film Invictus.


It is odd looking back to imagine that anyone ever thought a Rugby World Cup was a bad idea. But they did.

In a meeting of the International Rugby Board in 1984, both Scotland and Ireland voted against the idea while the English and Welsh each cast one vote in favour and one against, a precursor perhaps to the division which has marked Brexit.

Fortunately, Australia, New Zealand, France and South Africa - who were members of the IRB in spite of the apartheid-induced international sporting sanction - all voted in favour and the idea was born.

AFP Sports here chronicles the first four tournaments, from 1987 through until 1999:


Hosts: New Zealand, Australia

Final: New Zealand 29 France 9 (Eden Park, Auckland)

Third: Wales 22 Australia 21

Sixteen teams were invited to the inaugural event to play for the Webb Ellis Cup, named after William Webb Ellis, the Rugby schoolboy who, according to popular legend, first picked up the ball and ran during a game of football in 1823.

The most memorable match of the tournament saw a flying Serge Blanco sink Australia in the dying moments of the semi-final but Blanco's France were no match for hosts New Zealand in the final in Auckland, David Kirk's side gliding to a comfortable victory. The unofficial world champions now had it in the shape of a cup.


Hosts: England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France

Final: England 6 Australia 12 (Twickenham)

Third: New Zealand 13 Scotland 6

The Home Nations quickly dropped their disregard for a World Cup when they were charged with organising the second edition. Spread across the then Five Nations, the tournament again had 16 teams although this time there had been qualifying which had led to the arrival of Western Samoa.

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