Rugby World Cup Facts

The Rugby World Cup is in full force in England and Wales, and it's been an eventful competition so far, so we're taking a look back at the history of the Rugby World Cup and digging up some fascinating and unusual facts about the sport.

1. The first Rugby Union World Cup took place in 1987 and was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. Sixteen countries entered but it was main host New Zealand that won the title. The tournament was held following a controversial vote that an international competition should exist to crown the top rugby-playing country in the world.

2. England was (and still is) the only non-southern hemisphere country to win the Rugby World Cup in 2003. They beat Australia 20 – 17, with the winning drop goal coming from Jonny Wilkinson just 26 seconds from the end of the game.

3. Jonny Wilkinson holds the record for the most overall penalty goals kicked at the Rugby World Cup – he kicked 58 penalties.

4. The winner of the tournament receives the Webb Ellis Cup – named after the schoolboy who reportedly invented the game in 1823 when playing football. According to popular myth the student at Rugby School grew tired of the pace of football and picked up the ball instead.

5. The oldest player to appear in a World Cup match was Diego Ormaechea of Uruguay. He was aged 40 years and 26 days.

6. Jonah Lomu was the youngest player to appear in a Rugby World Cup Final, aged 20 years and 159 days.

7. Countries were dependent on invites to play in the first ever World Cup. Western Samoa controversially missed out on an invite despite having a team much stronger than many countries that competed.

8. New Zealand, Australia and South Africa have each won the Rugby World Cup twice. England is the only other team to win a World Cup.

9. A whistle more than 100 years old has been used to start the opening match of every Rugby World Cup since it began. It is called the Gil Evans whistle, named after the referee who it belonged to. Gil Evans used this whistle during a match between England and New Zealand in 1905 and it was also used for the kick-off of the final game in the 1924 Paris Olympics.

10. This year's Rugby World Cup will be the second to be hosted in England.

11. The United States is the reigning Rugby Olympic Champion! Rugby has only been an Olympic sport four times and the last time it was played in 1924 in Paris, the US emerged victorious.

12. The first ever international rugby match was played between Scotland and England in 1871, at Raeburn Park in Edinburgh. Scotland won 1 – 0 by converting a try.

13. Rugby Union was an amateur sport until 1995 when the Institutional Review Board (IRB) decided it should be 'open' and removed the restrictions on payments to players.

Do you know someone who is rugby mad? Why not take a look at our selection of Personalised Rugby Gifts to keep them entertained during the Rugby World Cup!