Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

1987 Rugby World Cup

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Host nations  New Zealand  Australia
No. of nations  16
Runner-up  France
Start date  1987
Number of nations  16
Dates  22 May – 20 June 1987
Champions  New Zealand
Third-place  Wales
Matches played  32
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Champion  New Zealand national rugby union team
Similar  1991 Rugby World Cup, 1999 Rugby World Cup, 2003 Rugby World Cup, 1995 Rugby World Cup, 2007 Rugby World Cup

The 1987 Rugby World Cup was the first Rugby Union World Cup. New Zealand and Australia agreed to co-host the tournament. New Zealand hosted 20 matches — 17 pool stage matches, two quarter-finals and the final. Australia as the junior partner hosted 12 matches — seven pool matches, two quarter-finals and both semi-finals. The event was won by co-hosts New Zealand who were the strong favourites, and won all their matches comfortably. France were losing finalists, and Wales surprise third-place winners: Australia, having been second favourites, finished fourth after conceding crucial tries in the dying seconds of both the semi-final against France and the third-place play-off against Wales.


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Sixteen teams competed in the inaugural tournament. Seven of the 16 places were automatically filled by the International Rugby Football Board members—New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and France. South Africa was unable to compete because of the international sports boycott due to apartheid. There was no qualification process to fill the remaining nine spots. Instead invitations were sent out to Argentina, Fiji, Italy, Canada, Romania, Tonga, Japan, Zimbabwe and the United States. This left Western Samoa controversially excluded, despite their better playing standard than some of the teams invited. The USSR were to be invited but they refused the invitation on political grounds, allegedly due to the continued IRFB membership of South Africa.

1987 Rugby World Cup Rugby World Cup final 1987 Stuffconz

The tournament witnessed a number of one-sided matches, with the seven traditional IRFB members proving too strong for the other teams. Half of the 24 matches across the four pools saw one team score 40 or more points. New Zealand defeated France 29–9 in the final at Eden Park in Auckland. The New Zealand team was captained by David Kirk, and included such rugby greats as Sean Fitzpatrick, John Kirwan, Grant Fox and Michael Jones. The tournament was seen as a major success and proved that the event was here to stay. It also led to many countries joining the International Rugby Football Board which in turn led the IRFB to become the true authority for the running of international rugby union.

1987 Rugby World Cup Rugby World Cup 2015 Players are under more scrutiny than ever

Participating nations

1987 Rugby World Cup Rugby World Cup 2011 Italy39s story Rugby World

There was no qualification for the inaugural World Cup so the tournament comprised the seven then-members of the IRFB, with the remaining nine places filled by teams invited by the IRFB.

1987 Rugby World Cup Rugby World Cup Winners New Zealand 1987 Rugby videos of tackles
  • South Africa was excluded due to its pro apartheid policies.
  • Soviet Union were to be invited but declined.
  • Western Samoa was not invited despite having a better record than some of the other invited nations.
  • Pools and format

  • Pool 1 was played in Australia
  • Pool 2 was played with five matches held in New Zealand and one in Australia
  • Pool 3 was played in New Zealand
  • Pool 4 was played in New Zealand
  • The inaugural World Cup was contested by 16 different nations. There was no qualifying tournament to determine the participants, and instead the 16 nations were invited by the International Rugby Football Board to compete. The simple 16 team pool/knock-out format was used with the sixteen nations divided into four pools of four nations, with each nation playing their other pool opponents once, every nation playing three times during the pool stages. Nations were awarded 2 points for a win, 1 for a draw and zero for a loss: teams finishing level on points were separated by tries scored, rather than total points difference (had it been otherwise, Argentina would have taken second place in Group C ahead of Fiji, although France would still have won Group D.) The top two nations of every pool advanced to the quarter finals. The runners-up of each pool faced the winners of a different pool in the quarter finals. The winners moved on to the semi finals, with the winners then moving onto the final, and the losers of the semi finals contesting a third/fourth place play off.

    Points System

    The points system that was used in the pool stage was:

  • 2 points for a win
  • 1 point for a draw
  • 0 points for playing
  • A total of 32 matches (24 Pool Stage & 8 Knock-out) were played throughout the tournament over 29 days from Friday 22 May 1987 to Saturday 20 June 1987.

    Pool 3

    Fiji qualified for the highest number of tries (Fiji 6, Italy 5, Argentina 4)

    Pool 4

    France qualify as pool winner having scored three tries while Scotland scored two in their drawn match 20 all.


    The event was broadcast in Australia by ABC and in the United Kingdom by the BBC.


    1987 Rugby World Cup Wikipedia