Rugby World Cup hosts- A Brief History

The Rugby World Cup is the biggest event in the rugby calendar, crowning the best international team in the world at the end of it. It is a brilliant spectacle with some iconic


Unlike its Football counterpart the Rugby World Cup has only been going since 1987. In all there have been 9 tournaments. Hosted alternatively between Northern and Southern Hemisphere nations. A full list of Rugby World Cup hosts (and winners) can be found below.

Rugby World Cup YearRugby World Cup hostsWinners
1987Australia & New ZealandNew Zealand
1991European NationsAustralia
1995South AfricaSouth Africa
1999European NationsAustralia
2007France, Wales and ScotlandSouth Africa
2011New ZealandNew Zealand
2015England and WalesNew Zealand
2019JapanSouth Africa

1987 Rugby World Cup hosts – Australia and New Zealand

The very first Rugby World Cup was hosted by two countries that now have an incredibly successful history in the sport, Australia and New Zealand. With 32 matches in the competition, New Zealand hosted 21 of them and Australia hosted the remaining eleven. 

The tournament featured some iconic stadiums like Rotorua International Stadium, Concord Oval and the host of the final, Eden Park in Auckland. In Auckland, New Zealand won the inaugural Rugby World Cup, hoisting the trophy in front of their home fans after a dominant 29-9 victory over France in the final. 

1991 Rugby World Cup hosts- European Nations 

The 1991 competition was the first where the games were split between multiple nations, with the 32 games split between France, England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. France held the most games with eight, with England and Wales both hosting seven. Scotland and Ireland both hosted five games. 

Due to the games being split across five countries, iconic stadiums like Twickenham, Murrayfield, Parc des Princes and Lansdowne Road were all included in the tournament, with Twickenham hosting 56,208 people for the final. Most of those fans were left disappointed as home side England lost 12-6 in the final to Australia. 

1995 Rugby World Cup hosts- South Africa 

The 1995 tournament was a crowning moment for South Africa. With apartheid ending in 1994, South Africa were finally permitted to be in the 1995 World Cup, having been excluded from World Rugby during apartheid. Not only were South Africa allowed to play in the tournament, the competition became the first major sporting event to take place in South Africa after the end of apartheid. 

The tournament went incredibly well for the hosts as they made it all the way to the final, defeating New Zealand in the final for the country’s first World Cup title, lifting the trophy in front of their home fans. 

1999 Rugby World Cup hosts- European Nations 

The 1999 tournament hosts saw the same group that hosted the 1991 tournament. With nine more games played this time around, Wales and England both hosted nine games. France and Scotland hosted eight each with Ireland hosting seven. 

Wales was the principal host of the tournament and so hosted the Third-Place Play-off and the final. The final was not a close affair, with Australia comfortably beating France 35-12 to win the title. Australia had previously defeated home nation, Wales, in the Quarter Final.

2003 World Cup- Australia 

This tournament was hosted by the reigning world champions Australia. The tournament was originally supposed to be held between Australia and New Zealand like the 1987 competition. But signage rights issues resulted in New Zealand being dropped and Australia becoming the sole host. 

The games featured some brilliant stadiums, the primary of those being Stadium Australia, located in Sydney. It hosted the final and boasts a massive capacity of 83,500. With the home fans roaring on Australia in the final, it was a 100th-minute drop goal from Johnny Wilkinson that won England their first and only World Cup title. 

2007 World Cup hosts- France, Wales and Scotland

Despite a bid to host from reigning champions England, France was the primary host for the 2007 games, with a few also being played in Cardiff and Edinburgh. The tournament featured stadiums like Stade de France, Millenium Stadium and Murrayfield as well as the beautiful Stade Velodrome. 

It was a substantial increase in the average capacity of venues compared to the previous tournament in Australia, mainly thanks to many of the venues being created for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. None of the host countries made it to the final, with South Africa claiming their second World Cup title after defeating England 15-6. 

2011 World Cup hosts- New Zealand 

This was the first time World Cup games were hosted in New Zealand since the first tournament in 1987, thanks to New Zealand having some massive stadiums like Eden Park, Waikato Stadium and Wellington Regional Stadium. Japan and South Africa also bid to host the 2011 World Cup. 

There were concerns about the country’s readiness to host the tournament as the large infrastructure needed to be put in place and things were made more difficult after the deadly 2011 Christchurch earthquake. But the tournament was a resounding success, with New Zealand winning the title again in front of their home crowd. 

2015 World Cup hosts- England and Wales 

Despite bids from South Africa, Japan and Italy, England were the primary hosts of the World Cup, with eight games being held in Wales. The tournament was not a good one for England as they exited in the group stage, but did produce some incredible moments like Japan’s shock win over South Africa. 

The tournament used a lot of large-capacity football stadiums like Wembley, St James Park and Villa Park as well as historic rugby stadiums like Kingsholm and Twickenham. On 31 October 2015 at Twickenham Stadium in London. New Zealand beat Australia 34–17, winning the World Cup for a record third time, and becoming the first nation to successfully defend the Webb Ellis Cup.

2019 World Cup hosts- Japan 

After two unsuccessful bids, Japan finally hosted the Rugby World Cup in 2019. Despite a few games having to be cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis, the tournament was a resounding success, with a total attendance of 1.7 million people.

It was partly down to Japan having some incredible stadiums like the International Stadium Yokohama and Tokyo Stadium. It was this Yokohama stadium that hosted the final as South Africa defeated England 32-12 in a one sided affair.

2023 World Cup hosts-France 

France are scheduled to host the tenth Rugby World Cup in 2023, the third time they have hosted the competition. The Stade de France will be the principal ground in the tournament, hosting both the semi-finals and the final. It is the perfect time for the country as they are in brilliant form. 

2027 World Cup hosts- Australia 

Australia will once again host the Rugby World Cup in 2027, which was confirmed this year. After three straight competitions were hosted in the Northern hemisphere, it was likely to be a southern hemisphere country as host for the 2027 tournament. 

2031 World Cup hosts- USA 

With Rugby looking to expand into the highly profitable area of the United States, they will host the 2031 tournament. The competition will mainly use NFL stadiums as they have more than enough capacity for the tournament. 

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