Sport Writer George Wellbelove defends the rugby World Cup amid criticism over its competitiveness

Written by George Wellbelove
First year undergraduate studying History and aspiring sports journalist.

In the history of the Rugby World Cup, only four teams have won the coveted Webb Ellis Cup: New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and England. Four teams out of twenty six that have qualified and only four teams since the first World Cup in 1987. This may seem repetitive but the quality of rugby played has increased year on year, resulting in closer games and an entertainment value that has grown exponentially. The Rugby World Cup is truly one of the world’s greatest sporting events and that does not change despite the same teams winning every time. 

Whilst the same teams winning every year may seem tedious, it is purely a testament to their continued success. The 2023 Rugby World Cup brought two of the greatest quarter finals of all time in which New Zealand and South Africa were able to edge past the two in form teams of the year in the form of Ireland and France. Although the two winners had already won the World Cup before, the quarter finals provided some of the best entertainment ever seen before. In extremely close games packed with ‘champagne rugby’ and superstars, these matches will be remembered for years to come. As the top two teams in the world at this point were knocked out, it just shows how teams have progressed well to compete with the strong rise in talent between World Cup cycles. 

The Rugby World Cup is full of surprises along the way until the final

With New Zealand and South Africa sharing seven titles between them, it is an indication of their strength, which as a result produces exhilarating games and slick styles of play. South Africa were defeated by Ireland in the group stage but yet went on to beat New Zealand in the final. This shows that even the best can be defeated and still have the strength to go on and win the entire competition. 

With the appearance of new tier two teams, the Rugby World Cup is always a brilliant stage to develop the game in different countries. Portugal and Chile both appeared at the 2023 edition and provided a carefree and exciting style of rugby. Portugal were able to secure their first ever win against Fiji and rose to their highest ever position of thirteenth in the world rankings. The Rugby World Cup creates unprecedented opportunities for teams who may not get media coverage on a regular basis and this can now be used by smaller teams to create bigger and better followings. Portugal were deemed to be many people’s ‘second team’ and had a cult following as they defied all odds to beat Fiji by one point. 

The same teams winning is purely a showcase of great rugby and thrilling matches

The Rugby World Cup is full of surprises along the way until the final. The 2015 edition saw the first time in which a host nation failed to get out of the group stage as England finished third in Pool A. This was a huge shock to the rugby world as many tipped England to go far in this tournament but ultimately, they underachieved hugely, leading to the sacking of their coaching team. In 2019, Japan went on an unlikely run of results, even topping their group at their home world cup. This was an unbelievable achievement and led to Japan becoming the first tier two team to qualify for the knockouts since 2007.

Despite the tournament being won by the same two teams since 2007, it is undeniable that every time the Rugby World Cup happens, it is a spectacle of athleticism and entertainment. There is always an underdog to support and a variety of great sporting moments occur. The incredible performances put out by every team contribute to the magical atmosphere that surrounds this tournament and fans would not have it any other way. The same teams winning is purely a showcase of great rugby and thrilling matches.

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