Rugby World Cup - England v Wales

Rugby World Cup

It’s funny to think that the game of rugby – a game built around a myriad of rules – was started by a boy who simply showed a disregard for the rules of football. It was 1823 when student Webb Ellis decided that getting from one end of a football pitch to the other was far easier with the ball in hand. He had no idea then that he had just sewn the first seeds of a game that would take the world by storm.

While the game of rugby has now been around for about 200 years there has surprisingly been only nine Rugby World Cups in the history of the sport. That is because the game, although having been around for a couple of centuries, only turned professional in 1995, meaning there was not a lot of order when it came to the game’s growth throughout the twentieth century. As well as this – while we’re on the subject of rules – rugby has so many that it almost took that whole century to add all of the most significant rules to the game. 

During that time, the prospect of a Rugby World Cup had been discussed, but it wasn’t until 1985 that an official proposal was put in front of the IRFB (International Rugby Football Board). The proposal was passed 10-6, and the first-ever tournament was held in Australia and New Zealand just two years later.

Rugby World Cup: The 101

  • Nicholas Shehadie (from Australia) and Richard Littlejohn (from New Zealand) travelled to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to win support for the proposal of a World Cup. 
  • They receive mixed reviews, but the vote is passed in their favour by 10-6.
  • The first World Cup is held in 1987.
  • Nine out of sixteen teams were invited to take part, with the other seven decided by the IRFB from member unions.
  • The first World Cup was held with great success, and the tournament has only grown in popularity since.
  • This year will see the tenth World Cup begin in November, exactly two-hundred years after Webb Ellis ignored the rules of football and created his own unique, beautiful sport. 

Crouch, Bind, Set: A History Of The Rugby World Cup

As mentioned before, in 1985, most of the nations who were proposed the idea of a world-spanning tournament didn’t take to the idea. 

After all, just as rugby was developed by the bending of football’s rules, it had to further compete with football in terms of spectacle and quality of play. The game was still amateur. The turn out to Rugby games – although strong in its own right – was not going to hold a candle to the turnout that the Football World Cup was graced with.

Despite this, in 1987, the tournament went ahead. The trophy was named the Webb Ellis Cup, and it was both a popular and financial success. New Zealand was the first country to take possession of the cup, and four years later, the tournament was held again – this time in the United Kingdom, Ireland and France. 

The 1991 World Cup, in many ways, was even more of a success than the first. It confirmed itself as a major international sports festival, bringing together fans from across the world, whether it was the far corners of Fiji or the sunny plains of South Africa. By 2003, as many as 30 million viewers – from 194 countries – were watching, with the UK seeing 15 million alone tune in to watch Jonny Wilkinson kick the field goal against Australia in the Final.

Today in 2023, the Rugby World Cup is the third-largest international sporting event in the world, reaching over 200 countries with as many as 857 million viewers. In no small way, it has created some of the most memorable sporting moments of all time.

A New Horizon: Rugby World Cup 2023

With the Rugby World Cup growing in popularity year-on-year, so too does the passion for the Webb Ellis Cup. This year has a lot to live up to, however. In 2019, the Rugby World Cup was held in Japan, and the “festival of sport” could not have been more entertaining if it had tried. 

It could also say a little something about what we can expect going into 2023. At the time, Ireland were hot off a winning streak, having won the previous year’s Six Nations and beaten the All Blacks at home in the Aviva Stadium. They were hot favourites, but Ireland have always had a little trouble when it comes to performing in the biggest tournament of them all, having never been to a World Cup semi-final. 2019 was no different. After a turgid group stage, they crashed out in a humiliating 46-14 defeat to New Zealand, who sought revenge for that cold night at the Aviva. 

On the other hand, England were not exactly in a great place going into the tournament. They had performed terribly in 2018, finishing fifth in the Six Nations and losing 2 out of 3 games on tour in South Africa. They, on the other hand, know what it takes to win big during important games. They fought all the way up to the World Cup Final before finally being beaten 32-12 by a rampant South Africa.

In 2023, we could very well get more of the same. Once again, Ireland are at their peak, England are going through some issues, South Africa are looking rampant, and New Zealand are a force to be reckoned with. Whether history will repeat itself, however, is another question. You will have to read our 2023 predictions below to find out.

The Rugby World Cup: Famous Players

Any team could win it, but they will need to take inspiration from somewhere. Thankfully, rugby has a number of players who have shown what it means to play with passion. From England’s point of view, there is the great Jonny Wilkinson. He was the epitome of hard work and courage, both of which were on display when he took the World Cup Final into his own hands in 2003, dropping a field goal in extra time to snatch the trophy away from hosts, Australia. 

If not Jonny Wilkinson, then there’s Martin Johnson, the England captain who steered the ship and showed incredible leadership to pull off stunning victories against South Africa, Wales and France before holding his nerve against the hosts to lift the cup.

For New Zealand, there is an abundance of notable alumni who can also inspire a path to victory. Richie Mccaw is considered by many to be the best player of all time, having won the World Rugby Player Of The Year award three times and taken his team to win two Rugby World Cups in a row. He was also the first All Black ever to reach 100 caps and the first Rugby Union player to win 100 tests.

For South Africa, no one can forget the magical feet of Bryan Habana, who ran circles around a disorientated England in the World Cup Final of 2007, helping his team attain their second-ever World Cup trophy with style and grace. 

But as we mentioned before, just as rugby is growing ever more popular, so too are the players increasing their skill and drive to win. This means that many of the best Rugby players are still playing today, all of whom will be digging in their studs to win big in 2023. 

Rugby World Cup: DAZN Bet’s Pop Quiz

When you watch the Rugby World Cup in 2023, it’s best to do so with context on how the World Cup has played out up to this point. Not to mention, you can dazzle some of your fellow fans with your incredible wealth of knowledge (you’re welcome, in advance). 

So, just for you, we’ve created a little pop quiz that will give you all of the interesting facts and tidbits to show off how much “rugby nouse” you have:

Q: What was the first ever game at the Rugby World Cup?

A:  The first-ever World Cup fixture was played between Australia and England at the Concord Oval in Sydney. The Wallabies won 19-6. 

Q: What’s the biggest ever scoreline in the Rugby World Cup?

A: There have been some big scorelines in the Rugby World Cup, especially back in the 90s when the game had only just turned professional. The biggest ever, however, goes to the All Blacks, who beat Japan 145-17 in 1995. Ouch.

Q: Which country holds the most Rugby World Cup trophies?

A: The All Blacks and South Africa are joint in this regard, with a total of three World Cups between them. Other World Cup winners are Australia – who have two to their name – and England, who won in 2003.

Q: Who has scored the most tries in the Rugby World Cup?

A: The late great Jonah Lomu is the joint record-holder with Bryan Habana, both of whom have scored 15 tries in the World Cup. Behind them is Drew Mitchell for Australia – with 14 – and Doug Howlett for New Zealand – with 13.

Q: Who has kicked the most points in the Rugby World Cup?

A: So far, England’s Jonny Wilkinson holds the record for the most points from the boot, having scored 277 points in all – including 58 penalties and 14 drop goals. 

Q: Where is the next Rugby World Cup being hosted?

A: The next World Cup is being hosted in France, with France themselves hot contenders for the trophy. In 2027, the tournament will be hosted by Australia, and in 2031 it is set to go Stateside.

Q: What was the biggest ever upset in the Rugby World Cup?

A: The biggest upset in the World Cup has to go to Japan in 2015, who performed a mammoth “David VS Goliath” task in the group stages against South Africa. A try in the final minute gave them a 34-32 win over the Boks and the game was described as one of the biggest shocks “not just in Rugby Union, but in all of sport.” 

Q: What was the most brutal Rugby World Cup game?

A: Being a sport where grown adults charge at each other, there have been a number of pretty brutal contests in the World Cup. In terms of sheer power, however, England’s shock win over New Zealand in 2019 has to be up there. They dominated the All Blacks from start to finish, with huge tackles by the likes of Sam Underhill demonstrating just how physically dominant they were.

Q: What is considered the Rugby World Cup’s best try?

A: It’s almost impossible to choose the World Cup’s best-ever try, but it would be churlish not to throw Jonah Lomu into the mix. His bulldozing try against England in the 1995 semi-final is still remembered to this day. Not to mention it came off from a horrible pass, but he was still able to take control of the ball and bypass Rory Underwood to get under the sticks. An incredible player with a magical legacy.

Q: What was the most shocking moment in the Rugby World Cup?

A: Once again, there are too many to count. Being a game with a number of subjective rules, it’s easy to get some controversy. One of the most controversial moments, however, goes to the decision to award Australia a last-minute penalty kick in their Quarter Final with Scotland. An incredible interception had seemed to seal a World Cup upset for Scotland, but referee Craig Joubert then awarded a “deliberate offside” from a ball that had clearly come off a Wallaby player. He ran pretty swiftly off the field after the final whistle. Hard luck, Scotland.

Our Predictions: The Rugby World Cup 2023

We said we would be back with a few predictions, so here we go. The road to the Rugby World Cup had been pretty smoothed. At least until the Autumn series happened in late 2022. Then everything went haywire. 

After a turgid campaign in which they lost to Georgia, Wales sacked their head coach Wayne Pivac in favour of the ex-Wales coach, Warren Gatland. Meanwhile, the RFU sensationally sacked Eddie Jones – who has a history of two World Cup finals, one World Cup win and one huge upset with Japan – before he could make another mark on the World Cup, replacing him with relatively inexperienced Steve Borthwick, who had had a good run with Leicester Tigers in the Premiership. 

Meanwhile, Australia rubbed their hands together, sacked their own coach and replaced him with Eddie Jones before anyone else could get him. That’s where we’re at right now. Chaos in the rugby world and delight for the fans who have no idea what’s going to happen next. In our opinion, the RFU have rather shot themselves in the foot. England will likely meet Australia in the World Cup Quarter Finals, and Eddie Jones would surely like a bit of payback for his contract being torn apart early. 

Meanwhile, Ireland may be getting the sense of history repeating itself. They have a tremendous amount of pressure to finally reach a World Cup Semi Final, but they’ll face either New Zealand or France in the Quarter Final, both of whom are in great form and won’t be looking to get knocked out so early. And what about the more unlikely teams? Wales, Scotland, Japan and Argentina all have the capabilities to do well in the World Cup. But is the path ahead too choppy?

Our Winners: The Rugby World Cup 2023

In our opinion: yes, yes it is. Although teams like Argentina have a strong history when it comes to the World Cup, the more dominant sides like England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland and France all have a point to prove and will be tremendously hard to tackle – quite literally. 

That’s not to say it’s impossible. Just look at Japan’s success in 2015 and 2019. But although there may be some shocking games and results, it’s hard not to see two of those countries battling it out in the Final. 

With this in mind, let’s get to the main point, which team will win? Well, our money is on – insert drum roll here – France to rise to the challenge and claim their first-ever Webb Ellis cup. They have been in outstanding form for years now, and the home advantage is sure to put the odds in their favour – as if they even needed any more of an advantage. 

Other teams could do it. New Zealand are always a force to be reckoned with, and Australia have just collected a prized talisman in Eddie Jones. But, if we’re being honest, it’s hard to see anyone other than France lifting that trophy come 28th October.