Why is it called the Webb Ellis Cup? We take a look in this piece.

The Rugby World Cup is one of the most global sporting competitions in the world and has grown significantly from its humble beginnings in 1987 to the present day.

Therefore given its role on the world stage and its presence as the epitome of rugby union, the tournament needed an iconic trophy to celebrate the event and indicate the magnitude of winning the Rugby World Cup.

What trophy design was selected? What name was given to it? How has it changed over the history of the tournament? We will look to answer all of these questions below in this piece.

History Of The Rugby World Cup Trophy

On the eve of the 1987 Rugby World Cup Sir Nicholas Shehadie took a call in Australia from John Kendall-Carpenter in England. Shehadie, chairman of the World Cup committee, was one of the two driving forces behind the tournament, along with Dick Littlejohn of New Zealand.

“We have a problem,” said ex-England No.8 Kendall-Carpenter, who was an ally of Shehadie’s on the committee. Shehadie asked what it was.

“We haven’t got a trophy,” replied Kendall-Carpenter.

Amid all the frenetic preparation for the inaugural World Cup one small but hugely significant detail had been overlooked: what to give the winning team.

Kendall-Carpenter dashed over to Garrards, the crown jewellers in London’s Regent Street, on the off chance they might have a spare cup lying about. They did, a silver gilt trophy with a £6,000 price tag. Kendall-Carpenter described it to Shehadie, who told him to buy it. The World Cup had its cup – and they named it after rugby’s founder, William Webb Ellis.

A Victorian design of a 1740 cup by Paul de Lamerie, the Cup was made in 1906, and then a replica was made in 1986 to use for the tournament.

Facts about the Rugby World Cup trophy

  • Only designated World Rugby representatives (the chair and vice chair), heads of state and past winners may handle the Rugby World Cup trophy without gloves.
  • The Rugby World Cup trophy is 38cm tall – roughly the same height as a bowling pin.
  • The trophy weighs 4.5kg – roughly the equivalent of eight basketballs.
  • The Rugby World Cup trophy is made of sterling silver and 24 carat gold plate.
  • The engraving on the base band takes place immediately after the final whistle and is undertaken by a specialist engraver.
  • The trophy will travel to every venue and host city during the 2023 tournament.

Why is there a pineapple on top of the World Cup?

  • There is no official explanation for there being a pineapple on top of the trophy, but the fruit was seen as a status symbol in the past. There is also a pineapple atop the trophy presented to the tennis player who wins at Wimbledon.
  • The trophy also has two two scroll handles. One executed with the head of a satyr, a mythical woodland god, and the other a head of a nymph, a spirit of nature.
  • The trophy also has decorative pieces of a bearded mask, a lion mask and a vine.

Who has won the Webb Ellis trophy?

As far as winners go, New Zealand and South Africa have won the cup a record three times. The All Blacks raised the trophy in 1987, 2011 and 2015 while the Springboks won it in 1995, 2007 and 2019. Australia (91, 99) have won it twice and England won the other edition in 2003.

The trophy has picked up the nickname ‘Bill’ by the Australian World Cup winning side in 1991.

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