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Rugby World Cup

Like the Olympic games, like the World Cup, like any other worldwide, four-year sports event, the Rugby World Cup – a relatively new addition to the global sports scene - takes place every four years and has already started to create a real buzz. And it seems that it’s getting bigger, stronger and louder with each coming tournament, where the host country is expected to enjoy hundreds of thousands of visitors and tourists - attendance has grown from 604,500 during 1987 to 2,477,805 in 2015 - and millions of incoming dollars as a boost to its economy. As such, in 1987 there was no revenue whatsoever, compared to 253 million GBP in 2011.

The Rugby World Cup’s first tournament was held in 1987 in Australia and New Zealand and 16 national teams played in it (the number has grown to 20 teams since). The cup itself is called in honor of English student William Webb Ellis, who, according to popular belief, invented rugby in late 19th century. As part of a promotional tour, before each tournament the cup is making a world tour of a host of countries, all members of rugby unions affiliated with World Rugby, the cup’s governing body.

The growing global popularity of rugby has increased enormously since the first tournament, with over 8.5 million men, women and children now playing the game in 121 rugby unions. The increase also reflects on the economic front, with Rugby World Cup in charge of 90 per cent of World Rugby’s investment in the game across the globe through four-year development funding. For the 2012-2015 cycle, the investment stood at 192 million GBP and the forecast for the 2016-2019 cycle is expected to be 266 million GBP.

The Rugby World Union is divided into six regions – Asia, Africa, Europe, North America/Caribbean, Oceania and South America. According to recent qualification rounds to World Cup – 12 spots are automatically reserved for teams who finish third or better in the group (pool) stages of the previous tournament. Those teams are seeded 5th and 6th. The last eight teams come from qualification rounds. Out of the 20 World Cup spots, eight reserved for Europe, five for Oceania, three for the Americas, two for Africa, one for Asia. The last place is determined by an intercontinental play-off. During the tournament, there are four groups (pools), and the winner and runner-up advance to the knockout stage. 

Starting with 1987, France has won the Rugby World Cup a record three times, Australia and South Africa twice and England once. Most points overall were scored by English Jonny Wilkinson, (277 over his World Cup career). Grant Fox of New Zealand scored the most points in one competition (126 in 1987). Jason Leonard of England holds the record for most World Cup matches (22 between 1991-2003). Simon Culhane holds the record for most points in a match by one player, 45, as well as the record for most conversions in a match, 20. Marc Ellis holds the record for most tries in a match, 6, scored against Japan in 1995.

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