Proposals for a regular rugby world cup tournament first began to circulate in the 1950s. They were rejected by the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) who, in 1958, advocated a “go slow” policy in regard to ‘foreign fixtures’, fearing that club rugby might otherwise be adversely affected.
In the 1960s Australians Harold Tolhurst and Jock Kellaher suggested a World Rugby Championship be held in their country but the IRFB were unimpressed and resisted any movements towards a football-style world cup.
The calls for a tournament to determine the best in the world however didn’t go away. By the late 1970s the increasing success of the football world cup encouraged separate calls from the Australian, New Zealand and French rugby unions for a rugby counterpart. In 1983 the IRFB softened its stance and agreed to conduct a feasibility study to be discussed amongst members.
Then, in 1985, the IRFB finally gave the green light to a Rugby World Cup. The first tournament would be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia in 1987.
The men’s Rugby World Cup is held every four years and has grown in stature with each subsequent tournament. Today the Rugby World Cup is the believed to be the third largest sporting event in the world.
The women’s Rugby World Cup was first held in 1991 and was brought under the governance of World Rugby for the first time in 1998. Like the men’s edition it is held every four years.