The 1991 Rugby World Cup was the second edition of the Rugby World Cup, and was jointly hosted by England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France; at that time, the five European countries that participated in the Five Nations Championship making it the first Rugby World Cup to be staged in the northern hemisphere, with England as the host of the championship game. Following on from the success of the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup, the 1991 World Cup received increased attention and was seen for the first time as a major sporting event. Also for the first time qualifying competitions were introduced as the number of entrants had increased from sixteen nations four years before to a total of thirty-three countries, the eight quarter-finalists from 1987 qualified automatically with the remaining twenty-five countries having to qualify for the remaining eight spots. The same sixteen team pool/knock-out format was used with just minor changes to the points system.
The Pool stage of the tournament was nothing like four years earlier with fewer one-sided matches and produced a major shock when Western Samoa, who were making their debut in the tournament, defeated 1987 semifinalist Wales 16-13 in Cardiff, resulting in the elimination of Wales, who finished third in Pool 3. Also notable in pool play was that Canada finished second in its group to qualify for the quarterfinals (in what remains Canada's best performance in the Rugby World Cup).
In the quarter-finals, neither Canada nor Western Samoa proved a match for New Zealand or Scotland, respectively. Meanwhile, England knocked out 1987 finalist France, and Australia, in what was seen as the match of the round, piped Ireland 19-18 in a thrilling match at Lansdowne Road. The semi-finals produced two tight matches, in which England overcame its Scottish rival 6-9 at Murrayfield Stadium and Australia defeated the defending world champion New Zealand 16-6 at Lansdowne Road. The World Cup Final was played at Twickenham Stadium in London, and saw Australia triumph 12–6 against England.
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