What is the Webb Ellis Trophy?

There are a lot of prestigious awards and trophies that rugby players are striving for. But the William Webb Ellis trophy is actually the one that every rugby player is aiming for. It is the most prestigious trophy in the world. 

What is the Webb Ellis Trophy? The Webb Ellis Cup is the trophy given to the winners of the men’s Rugby World Cup. It is the best trophy given to the team who wins the Rugby World Cup every four years and is the crowning achievement for the best national rugby team in the world. 

The Webb Ellis Cup is the trophy that every international rugby team are striving for. It is the trophy awarded to the winners of the men’s Rugby World Cup, a competition held every four years to crown the best rugby team in the world. 

The trophy itself is a silver gilt and has been given to the winners of the Rugby World Cup since 1987, the very first World Cup. The original trophy is actually from 1906 and was created by London company Carrington and Co. Since then, a replica has been made. 

The trophy can usually take a little bit of wear when a team wins the world cup as they will usually parade around with it in the following celebrations. So the trophy is cared for by silversmiths in between competitions. 

It is made out of gilded silver and has two distinct handles. On the face of the trophy, you will see the words International Rugby Football Board and below that the words The Webb Ellis Cup are engraved. At the bottom of the trophy, you will see the winners of the trophy engraved onto it, starting with New Zealand in 1987 and the most recent being South Africa in 2019. 

Why is it called the Webb-Ellis Cup? 

The Webb Ellis Cup is the most important trophy in World Rugby, but some people are not aware of where the trophy got its name from. The trophy is named after William Webb Ellis who is often looked at as the pupil of Rugby school in Warwickshire who is credited with inventing the game of rugby. 

The story goes that during a game of football, young pupil William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it, showing a “fine disregard for the rules”. It has been in rugby legend for hundreds of years that this is how the game was invented and so the Rugby World Cup trophy is named after the inventor of the sport. 

While Webb Ellis is seen as the originator of the game of rugby, it is more seen as a Rugby myth now, with fans not wanting the truth to get in the way of a good story. The story about Webb Ellis first appeared in 1876, four years after he had died. It was pushed by former Rugby student Matthew Bloxam. 

But Bloxam did not go to school with Webb Ellis and an investigation by the Old Rugbeian Society in 1895 dismissed the story, meaning that while the game of Rugby was invented at Rugby School, the exact creation is a lot more unknown. 

Despite the story essentially being called a myth, World Rugby still wants to preserve the idea that the game was created when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it. While Rugby did develop as a version of football, it is unlikely the story is true, but World Rugby wants to keep the mystique alive and part of that was naming the trophy given to the World Cup winners after him. There is also still a plaque at the school dedicated to him. 

Who is the holder of the Webb Ellis Cup? 

At the moment, South Africa are the current holders of the Webb Ellis Cup, having won the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. South Africa were one of the teams in contention heading into the tournament and they lost their first game 23-13 to New Zealand after two tries in four minutes from the All Blacks gave them a 14-point lead at halftime. 

But they won their remaining three games and still advanced to the quarter-finals, facing home side Japan. South Africa had experienced a record-breaking loss in the 2015 World Cup to Japan and that result is seen as one of the most incredible results in World Cup history. 

The Springboks got their revenge with a 26-3 to victory thanks to Makazole Mapimpi scoring two tries and the South African defence holding Japan to only a single penalty in the game. The team’s semi-final game was a brilliant encounter against Wales. 

The scores were tied just after the second half thanks to Welsh fly-half Dan Biggar adding his third penalty. Inside centre Damian de Allende ended up being the difference maker when he scored the first try of the game in the 57th minute. Josh Adams responded with a try eight minutes later and the game was again tied. 

But the physicality of the Springboks turned out to make a huge difference as Wales were penalised for collapsing the South African maul. Handre Pollard nailed his fourth penalty of the day in the 76th minute and South Africa held on to progress to the World Cup Final. 

The final started off as an incredibly close and tight affair, with the Springboks heading into halftime with a 12-6 lead. Two more penalties for each side meant South Africa held onto their lead. But late tries from Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe secured a brilliant 32-12 victory for the Springboks, giving them their third World Cup title. 

It meant that South Africa became the holders of the Webb Ellis cup, taking it off of New Zealand who had held the trophy for the previous eight years thanks to winning the two World Cups previous to 2019. At the time of writing, South Africa are still the holders of the trophy, but 2023 brings a Rugby World Cup and a chance for a lot of teams to take the trophy off of their hands.

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