Rugby Union - Major International Competitions

Major International Competitions

For more details on this topic, see List of rugby union competitions.

The most important tournament in rugby union is the Rugby World Cup, a men's tournament that takes place every four years among the national rugby union teams. New Zealand is the current holder, winning the 2011 tournament held in New Zealand, beating France 8–7 in the final. No World Cup winner has yet retained the trophy. England were the first team from the Northern Hemisphere to win, the previous champions being New Zealand (1987), Australia (1991 and 1999), and South Africa (1995 and 2007). Major international competitions are the Six Nations Championship and The Rugby Championship, held in Europe and the Southern Hemisphere respectively.

The Six Nations is an annual competition involving the European teams England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. Each country plays the other five once. After the initial internationals between England and Scotland, Ireland and Wales began competing in the 1880s, forming the Home International Championships. France joined the tournament in the 1900s and in 1910 the term Five Nations first appeared. However, the Home Nations (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) excluded France in 1931 amid a run of poor results, allegations of professionalism and concerns over on-field violence. France then rejoined in 1939–1940, though World War II halted proceedings for a further eight years. France has played in all the tournaments since WWII, the first of which was played in 1947. In 2000, Italy became the sixth nation in the contest and Rome's Stadio Flaminio, where their games are played, is the smallest venue in the tournament. The reigning Six Nations champions are Wales, who completed the grand slam with a 16–9 victory over France.

The Rugby Championship is the new name of the Southern Hemisphere's annual international series for that region's top national teams. From its inception in 1996 through 2011, it was known as the Tri Nations, as it featured the hemisphere's traditional powers of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. These teams have dominated world rankings in recent years, and many considered the Tri Nations to be the toughest competition in international rugby. The Tri Nations was initially played on a home and away basis with the three nations playing each other twice. In 2006 a new system was introduced where each nation plays the others three times, though in 2007 and 2011 the teams played each other only twice, as both were World Cup years. Since Argentina's strong performances in the 2007 World Cup, a number of commentators believed they should join the Tri-Nations, which came closer to reality after the 2009 Tri Nations tournament, when SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand and Australian Rugby) extended an official invitation to the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) to join an expanded Four Nations tournament in 2012. The competition has been officially rechristened as The Rugby Championship beginning with the 2012 edition. The competition reverted to the Tri Nations' original home-and-away format, but now involving four teams.

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