The first Rugby World Cup was held in 1987. It was won by the best team of the time – the New Zealand All blacks. Since then it’s been held every four years. Has the best team always won, though? The answer to that is quite intriguing. Things are not always as straightforward as they should be, perhaps…
The International Rugby Board runs both the world cup and the official world rankings. The top ten often contains the countries who compete in the northern hemisphere’s main competition – the ‘six nations’ – and the four ‘senior’ southern hemisphere sides, including New Zealand and Australia. So how has that all worked out in World Cup terms?
Well, take Scotland, a proud rugby nation, founded in 1873, known for their marauding forwards. Has that particular quality helped them? No. And their highest ranking? Number 6. Ireland? They’re known as the game’s arch disrupters, yet they haven’t won the cup either. Their current ranking is no.2, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can reach their first final. Or how about Wales, boasting some of the proudest names in rugby history? They have had match winners like Barry John, Phil Bennett and Gareth Edwards ( once voted the best player in the world ). Have they won the cup? No. Then there’s France. On their day, with ‘the sun on their backs’, they’re the best team in the world – until, that is, it comes to the world cup.
The next four teams have all won the world cup – some of them twice. Australia has and rugby union isn’t even their top sport. Not bad. South Africa? Possibly the proudest rugby nation of all. When you play them, you’re warned about the ‘mastodons on the high veldt’. They’ve won the cup twice.
And what about us? England, ‘les rosbifs’, will be playing at our home ground, “fortress Twickenham.” We won the cup in 2003 with an exceptional team – Jonny Wilkinson, Martin Johnson, and ‘Billy Whizz’ ( the disimilarly named Jason Robinson! ). It was as impressive a world cup win as any, except it was only won in extra time, for the first time in world cup final history, and famously by a trademark Wilkinson drop goal in the dying seconds of the game. Some of us couldn’t even bear to watch. We are currently ranked no.4, but may have an advantage as hosts.
However, everyone’s got to get past the mighty All blacks, the current world cup holders and rated no.1 seven times. They’ve never dropped rank below no.3 and have been described as the most successful sports team of all time.
So what about an England / New Zealand final? A mouthwatering prospect… and kick off is just a few days away!
My last job was as a tutor for OOL. I taught on courses providing professional training for school support staff, as well as A level English Literature and English Literature GCSE. Prior to that, I worked in schools, colleges, adult education and the Arts, including a period as a local authority inspector. I'm going to make myself busy trying to keep you up to date with different aspects of education news – and also to keep you interested.