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1999 Ugly American Tour - History of the Rugby World Cup

The sport of rugby is named after the Rugby School in England where it started in 1823.

During a soccer (football) game, one of the students decided that just kicking the ball around was too one-dimensional. He picked up the ball and ran with it. That student was William Webb Ellis for whom the World Cup is now named.

The inaugural World Cup was held in 1987 after the Australian Rugby Union, with the support of New Zealand, France and South Africa, had pressed for a World Cup. The ARU felt threatened by the proposed professional rugby union circuit of Australian entrepreneur David Lord.

The British and Irish unions were opposed to the idea of a World Cup, so South Africa held the deciding vote. South Africa, aware it would be unable to play because of the international sports boycott, voted in favor of the World Cup at a meeting of the International Rugby Board in 1985.

This is only the fourth Rugby World Cup, and yet it is billed by many as the world's third largest sporting event after the Olympics and soccer's World Cup.

1987 World Cup

Sixteen teams gathered in Australia and New Zealand, but there were only three real contenders for the trophy.

The semifinal match between the European champions France and favorites Australia is often billed as the match of the tournament. France would defeat the men from Down Under, only to lose to New Zealand in the final 29-9 at Eden Park on June 20.

The gap between the established and the emerging nations was apparent, illustrating that rugby was still far from a global game and that the form of the British and Irish, with the exception of Scotland, was weak.

1991 World Cup

The second World Cup took place in the United Kingdom, Ireland and France, and again 16 nations took part.

For this tournament the IRB invited all member unions to enter qualifying rounds. The eight 1987 quarterfinalists automatically were guaranteed berths while 32 other nations competed for eight other spots. South Africa was still unable to play in the Cup due to the boycott.

England qualified for the final when it beat Scotland in a close match at Murrayfield. The following day Australia secured its final berth when it ended defending champions New Zealand's hopes 16-6.

Australia, which had again entered the tournament as favorites, lived up to expectations as it defeated England in the final at Twickenham 12-6.

1995 World Cup

The third World Cup was for many more emotional than either of the first two. It officially proclaimed the return of South Africa to the world rugby stage, and was held in South Africa.

The Springboks proved in the first match of the tournament that they intended to be a force to be reckoned with, when they beat Australia 27-18.

Pool play saw some incredible performances but the joy of the Cup was marred when the Ivory Coast's Max Brito was paralyzed in a game against Tonga.

The tournament continued and the man who was to become the icon of the 1995 World Cup and rugby union turned out to be New Zealand's youthful, massive left wing, Jonah Lomu.

The final played at Ellis Park in Johannesburg between New Zealand and the hosts saw the match stand at 9-9 after 80 minutes. The match would go into extra-time and it came down the Springboks flyhalf Joel Stransky, who kicked the winning drop goal for 15-12 South Africa victory.

The emotion did not stop there as President Nelson Mandela, wearing a copy of then South African captain's No. 6 jersey presented the trophy. However, the All Blacks continued to allege after the World Cup that they had been poisoned the night before the final.

1999 World Cup

Although Wales is the official host of the 1999 World Cup, matches are being played in England, France, Ireland and Scotland.

Twenty nations are competing in this Cup and New Zealand is unanimously regarded as the favorite.

Only South Africa, New Zealand, France and Wales (host) automatically gained berths as winner, runner-up and the third-placed team in 1995.


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