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 four most recent tournaments, from 2003 through until 2015:


Hosts: Australia

Final: Australia 17 England 20 (aet) (Stadium Australia, Sydney)

Third: New Zealand 40 France 13

After four successive wins for southern hemisphere sides, there was genuine concern that the European sides would never be good enough to challenge. That fear was put to bed by an England team that had developed over several seasons and a year before the tournament had beaten both Australia and New Zealand down under. Martin Johnson's team, heavily reliant on the boot and vision of Jonny Wilkinson, eased through to the final where they met an Australia side which had grown during the tournament, beating the All Blacks in the semi-finals. The final was another epic which went to extra-time, Wilkinson sealing an English win with a drop goal just 20 seconds before the end. It remains the only win by a European side in eight tournaments.


Hosts: France

Final: England 6 South Africa 15 (Stade de France, Paris)

Third: Argentina 34 France 10

This tournament of surprises began with Argentina beating hosts France in the opening match and ended with South Africa claiming their second title. In between Fiji beat the Welsh who consequently missed out on the quarter-finals as did Ireland who, like the French, were undone by a bold and exciting Pumas team. In the last eight, Thierry Dusautoir's French side then turned the tables on the All Blacks in Cardiff, the only occasion when New Zealand have failed to reach the semi-finals.

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