Rugby Union World Cup 2019: Betting Tips, Stats & History

Rugby World Cup Ball in Stadium

The Rugby Union World Cup is the biggest international rugby event in the world. It brings together the best teams and is often considered to be defining moments in players careers. What’s great about the tournament is that you get to see a mix of both Northern and Southern Hemisphere teams battle it out for the coveted prize of becoming world champions.

The tournament is run once every 4 years and switches host nation each time. Like most international tournaments in sport, a bidding process to host the World Cup takes place, before the governing body then decide who is eligible to host. 

It’s not uncommon for several countries to host one tournament, which was the case in 1987 and 1991. As more and more countries are starting to get more competitive in the sport, the governing body are keen to broaden the market for the sport, highlighted by the appointment of Japan to host the 2019 tournament, making them the first country in Asia to do so. 


Rugby World Cup 2015 Trophy Presentation
Catherine Sharman, flickr

In total, there are 20 nations that compete at the World Cup, a number that has risen from 16 since the 1999 World Cup. Teams from all over the world are able to qualify with a number of slots up for grabs from both qualification and teams that are automatically entered, based on a number of criteria that have been laid out and met.  

The tournament usually starts in September time, which works well for both Northern and Southern Hemisphere, given that the weather is usually pretty good for both, avoiding freezing temperatures in winter and the heat of the summer. 

It lasts around 6 weeks and throughout there are 48 games in total that will need to be played to determine the winner. 

The World Cup is hosted by World Rugby, who is the governing body for the international game. World Rugby was formed since 1886 and is currently based in Dublin, Ireland. The body includes 102 members, with 17 associate members, creating the board for the governing body. 


Twelve of the twenty places for the World Cup are made up by the teams that finished third or better in the previous World Cup group stage. Many people think this goes on world ranking, but this is not the case. These teams will get automatic entry into the tournament without having to go through any qualifying stages.

World Cup 2015 Pool Stage Final Standings

 Pool APool BPool CPool D
1 Australia Q South Africa Q New Zealand Q Ireland Q
2 Wales Q Scotland Q Argentina Q France Q
3 England Q Japan Q Georgia Q Italy Q
4 Fiji Samoa Tonga Romania
5 Uruguay United States Namibia Canada

The remaining 8 places are made up from a qualification process of matches in number of regions, namely Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. There was also a play-off and repechage system for those who didn't gain automatic qualification.

  • Africa - One place for qualifying winner with entry into repechage for the runner up
  • Americas - Two places for best teams in qualifying with the third team advancing to the repchage
  • Asia - Hosts (Japan) gained an automatic place in the competition with Asia Rugby Championship winner gaining a play-off versus Oceania Cup winner for a place in the repechage
  • Europe - One place for best team in the Rugby Europe Championship with the runner-up given two chances via a play-off with the third Oceania team then the repechage if defeated
  • Oceania - Two places for the best teams in the Pacific Nations Cup. The third team had two chances, firstly via a play-off with the Rugby Europe runner-up then the repechage if defeated. A fourth opportunity went to the winner of the Oceania Cup who plays the Asia Rugby winner for a chance to qualify for the repechage

World Cup 2019 Qualifying Winners

TeamRegionMethod of Qualification
Namibia Africa Africa Gold Cup Winner
United States Americas Won 2-leg play-off vs Canada
Uruguay Americas Top South American team winning 2-leg play-off vs Canada
Canada Americas Winner of repechage round robin tournament
Russia Europe Top ranked Rugby Europe Championship team (following disqualifications)
Fiji Oceania Top ranked in the Pacific Nations Cup (2016-17)
Tonga Oceania Second ranked team in the Pacific Nations Cup (2016-17)
Samoa Oceania Won play-off vs Germany

Format of the Finals

France Versus Tonga Match at the 2011 Rugby World Cup
Stewart Baird, flickr

The World Cup ‘proper’ is split over two sections; a group stage and knockout stage. There are 4 groups in total, each with 5 nations in that group. The teams that are in tournament are seeded based on current world rankings. The four highest seeded teams will all be in different groups, before the next highest ranked are drawn into a pool and so on for the next 4 ranked nations. The qualifiers fill the remaining spaces within the group.

Rugby World Cup 2019 Pools

PoolTeams by Band
A Ireland Scotland Japan Russia Samoa
B New Zealand South Africa Italy Namibia Canada
C England France Argentina United States Tonga
D Australia Wales Georgia Fiji Uruguay

Each nation will play each other once, which results in each nation playing at least 4 games in the competition. The winner and the runner up of each group will qualify for the knockout stages, which includes 8 nations in total. From here, a straight knockout will apply, with the winning team progressing to the quarter final, semi-final and then the final. 

The two losers from the two semi-finals will pay off in a 3rd/4th place play off, known as the Bronze Final. Tied games in the knockout rounds will go through to extra time and if needed, sudden death, where the first team to score a point will progress. 

Host Nations

Twickenham Stadium During 2015 Rugby World Cup
Maxwell Hamilton, flickr

World Rugby ultimately decide who hosts each tournament. A vote is carried out by the rugby council and then awarded to the nation they deem best to host the tournament given their current set up. You’ll find that tournaments are usually announced around 6 years prior to that tournament starting, in order to give enough time to prepare fully for the event. 

As mentioned earlier, Japan will be the first nation in Asia and the first nation outside of the higher profile rugby playing nations to host a world cup. Due to their already impressive sporting infrastructure, it was decided by World Rugby that they would be a good fit to host and grow the game around the world. France have already been awarded as hosts of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which will be their second time as the principle host third time overall after hosting on their own in 2007 and as part of the 5 nations in 1991. 

Rugby World Cup Hosts: 1987 to 2023

Primary HostContinentYear(s) HostedStadium Hosting Final
England Europe 1991 & 2015 Twickenham, London
New Zealand Oceania 1987 & 2011 Eden Park, Auckland
France Europe 2007 & 2023 Stade de France, Paris
Japan Asia 2019 International Stadium, Yokohama
Australia Oceania 2003 Telstra Stadium, Sydney
Wales Europe 1999 Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
South Africa Africa 1995 Ellis Park, Johannesburg


Since it’s inauguration in 1987, only 4 teams have won the rugby World Cup. Three of those teams have come from the Southern Hemisphere in the form of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The only team from the Northern Hemisphere was that of England in 2003.

The most successful team is New Zealand who have won three World Cup’s and most notably, the last two in 2015 and 2011, respectively. They have also been involved in four finals in total, losing out to South Africa in 1995. 

Chart Showing Rugby World Cup Wins By Nation

Jonny Wilkinson holds the record for the most points in the tournament's history, with 277 to his name. The English fly-half was an integral part of the winning team in 2003 and represented his country in four World Cup’s, making 19 appearances in total. 

Chart Shwoing the Rugby World Cup's Record Points Scorers

Gavin Hastings of Scotland holds the record for the most points scored in a single World Cup match with 44 when Scotland played Ivory Coast in the 1995 World Cup. Two players are tied for the most tries in World Cup history, South Africa’s Bryan Habana and New Zealand’s Jonah Lomu, scoring a total of 15 tries each. They also hold the record of most tries in a single World Cup with 8, alongside Julian Savea of New Zealand.


1908 Olympic Rugby Final Between Australia and Britain
State Library of NSW via Wikimedia Commons

The Rugby World Cup was pretty late to the party in comparison to the development of rugby union. There were a number of international tournaments that were already taking place around the world, such as the Six Nations which started in 1883 as the Home Nations with just England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales taking part. 

The sport has also featured several times in the Olympics back in the early 20th century, but was axed in 1924 and hasn’t been played at the games since.

The concept of a truly international tournament had been floated about for some years before it started in 1987. In fact, it dates back to the 1950’s when the first plans for a global tournament were first announced by the IRFB. It wasn’t until 1985 that the proposal was finally passed, voted on the top 16 nations at the time. The bid was won, 10 votes to 6, with Australia and New Zealand the driving forces behind getting the tournament up and running. 

The first tournament in 1987 was hosted by Australia and New Zealand, with 16 nations taking part, all of which were automatically entered due to status within the World Rugby governing body. 

As the game has grown, the tournament has also grown, initially starting with 16 nations taking part, but since 1999, twenty nations have competed at the finals, with the format remaining for the next two World Cup’s in 2019 and 2023 at least. 

William Webb Ellis

Statue of William Webb Ellis at Rugby School

There are few bigger names in the history of the sport than William Webb Ellis. It is widely regarded that Webb Ellis was the inventor of the sport when he indivertibly picked up a ball during a football match and ran with the ball in 1823. The game was taking place at Rugby School, which is where the name derives. 

But, a lot of historians actually state that this is a bit of myth and whilst they were sure that Webb Ellis was the inventor of rugby, the story might be a little far-fetched. The reason why many are sceptical is that this story didn’t actually surface until 4 years after Eliss's death in 1872, so the story couldn't be verified. 

As there is no substantial evidence to say otherwise, William Webb Ellis had a major role in the formation of rugby, regardless of how it actually came about. 

To commemorate his feat, World Rugby decided that it would be fitting to name to the trophy after him, with its official name being the William Webb Ellis Cup. 

New Zealand

New Zealand Awaiting 2015 Rugby World Cup Trophy Presentation
Catherine Sharman, flickr

No team has dominated by the Rugby World Cup quite like New Zealand have. Their 3 wins is more than any other country and with it they hold a host of records to their name as well. These go with countless other individual records. The table below shows a selection of these.

New Zealand Rugby World Cup Records

Team/IndividualCurrent Record
Team Most World Cup Titles: 3 – 1987, 2011 & 2015
Most Points by a Team in a Single Match: 145 - Versus Japan 1995
Most Tries in a Single Match: 22 - Versus Namibia 2003
Highest Win Percentage: 37.5%
Individual Most Appearances: 22 - Richie McCaw
Most Tournament Points: 126 - Grant Fox in 1987
Most Tries: 15 - Jonah Lomu
Most Tries in a Match: 6 - Marc Ellis vs Japan in 1995
Most Conversions: 58 - Dan Carter
Most Conversions in a Single Match: 20 - Simon Culhane vs Japan in 1995
Youngest Player: Jonah Lomu in 1995 aged 20 years 43 days

Whilst you could list a number of players who’ve been pivotal inclusions for New Zealand over the years, the likes of Dan Carter, Jonah Lomu and Richie McCaw are probably the three biggest for New Zealand. As you can see from the records above, they all feature and they’ve all been able to contribute greatly for their nation at some point in their career. 

England's 2003 Triumph

Jonny Wilkinson Taking Kick

Following the trends of the previous 3 World Cup’s, it was widely thought that the Southern Hemisphere would continue their domination of the tournament. Whilst England had been playing well on the international stage, few though that they would have the ability to overturn Australia or New Zeeland, especially in their own back yard. 

In what was thought a tough group, England managed win all 4 of their games, with the most impressive being a 25-6 victory over South Africa. It was crucial for the English that they got this win as it meant in the knockout stages they would avoid both Australia and New Zealand on route to the final. 

A tough victory over Wales in the Quarter finals 28-17 ensured a semi-final bout with France, a game they would go on to win comfortably 24-7. Whilst Jonny Wilkinson was already rated as one of, if not the best fly half in the world at the time, his feat of scoring all 24 points for England in the semi-final was one that many remember as a defining point in his career.

That was, until the final against hosts Australia. The game couldn’t have been closer and both teams were level on 17 points a piece before heading into extra time. The mantle was then passed to Wilkinson to get England over the line, which he duly obliged, scoring a 30 metre drop goal with his right foot, the weaker of his two, to ensure a 20-17 victory for England, first Northern Hemisphere World Champions.

Players were then honoured for their work by the Queen, many receiving MBE’s and OBE’s. But it was head coach Clive Woodward who would gain the highest recognition of them all, becoming a Knight. 

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