|No. of nations 16 (33 qualifying)|
Start date 1991
Number of nations 16
Third-place New Zealand
Matches played 32
|Host nations England
Dates 3 October – 2 November 1991
Champion Australia national rugby union team
Similar 1987 Rugby World Cup, 1995 Rugby World Cup, 1999 Rugby World Cup, 2003 Rugby World Cup, 2007 Rugby World Cup
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 as a major global sporting event for the first time. 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. This however resulted in only one new side qualifying for the tournament, Western Samoa replacing Tonga. 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 the early stages 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 - making it the first time that a host or co-host nation was knocked out of the competition in the pool stages. Also notable in pool play was that Canada finished second in their pool to qualify for the quarterfinals in what remains Canada's best performance in the Rugby World Cup. Fiji, as quarter-finalists four years ago, had expected to occupy that position, but after the upset loss to Canada and a hammering by France, they were to lose even their final match against the unfancied Romanian team. Earlier, the opening match had pitted the holders New Zealand against the hosts England: New Zealand overturned a narrow half-time deficit to win the match and the pool, both teams qualifying for the quarter-finals with easy victories in their other matches. Scotland beat Ireland to top their pool, again both teams qualifying.
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 in a bruising encounter. Australia, in what was seen as the match of the tournament, pipped Ireland 19-18 in a thrilling match at Lansdowne Road, with a last-gasp try from fly-half Michael Lynagh coming after the Irish took an unexpected 18-15 lead when loose-forward Hamilton sensationally outpaced speedy winger David Campese over half the length of the pitch for a try. The semi-finals produced two tight matches: England overcame their Scottish rivals 6-9, a late drop-goal deciding a tryless match in a torrential downpour at Murrayfield Stadium, and Australia defeated the defending world champions 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, thanks to a first-half try from prop Tony Daly.
The following 16 teams, shown by region, qualified for the 1991 Rugby World Cup. Of the 16 teams, eight of those places were automatically filled by quarterfinalists from the 1987 World Cup and did not have to play any qualification matches. 25 nations competed in a qualification process designed to fill the remaining eight spots, bringing the total participation to 33 nations. In the event, there was only one change from the 1987 tournament, with Western Samoa appearing in place of Tonga.
Pools & Format
As in the 1987 Rugby World Cup the 16 nations were 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, 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.
The points system that was used in the pool stage was which was changed from 1987 was as follows:
A total of 32 matches (24 Pool Stage & 8 Knock-out) were played throughout the tournament over 30 days from Thursday 3 October 1991 to Saturday 2 November 1991.
The event was broadcast in the United Kingdom by ITV who took over the rights from the BBC.