A timeline of key events, including all the winners of the global tournament

Women’s Rugby World Cup History

This year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand will be the ninth edition of the women’s tournament, but how did it start and what obstacles were faced along the way?

Here is a rundown of key events in the history of the Women’s Rugby World Cup as well as a list of all the winners of the tournament.

Women’s Rugby World Cup History

January 1990

At a Women’s Rugby Football Union committee meeting, Deb Griffin proposes staging the first-ever Women’s World Cup in the UK in 1991.

She chairs the tournament’s organising committee, with Alice Cooper, Sue Dorrington and Mary Forsyth all heavily involved (they have all be inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame this year).

February 1991

France confirm they will participate in the inaugural tournament just minutes before the draw takes place, ensuring it will be a 12-team competition.

April 1991

The first Women’s World Cup takes place over just nine days (6 to 14 April) in Wales. The USA are crowned champions after beating England 19-6 in the final.

Women's Rugby World Cup history

USA celebrate their triumph at the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup (Getty Images/Hulton Archive)

January 1994

The Netherlands pull out as hosts of the 1994 World Cup just three months before it is due to take place after the then IRB defers a decision on whether to endorse the involvement of member unions.

Scotland, with Scottish Women’s Rugby Union’s Sue Brodie to the fore, step in to host at short notice.

April 1994

Following Spain’s withdrawal from the tournament after the draw is made, Scottish Students replace them.

The final is a repeat of the 1991 climax but this time England beat the USA 38-23 in Edinburgh.

January 1996

This year, the IRB establishes a Women’s Advisory Committee and outlines a five-year development plan for the game, including sanctioning a Women’s World Cup in 1998. The first official tournament would also expand to 16 teams.

May 1998

Amsterdam hosts the tournament four years after it was originally due to, while Germany and Australia make their first appearances at the global event. New Zealand win their first title, Farah Palmer leading them to a 44-12 victory over the USA in the final.

December 2000

The first Women’s World Cup qualifier takes place, Japan beating Hong Kong 62-0 to book their place. All of the other 15 teams were invited to participate, with Samoa making their tournament debut.

May 2002

Spain host the 16-team tournament, which culminates in England and New Zealand meeting in the final at Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium in front of a crowd of 8,000. The Black Ferns make it back-to-back titles with a 19-9 win.

June 2005

Again, the only qualifiers involve Asia, with Kazakhstan ensuring their spot with a 19-3 win over Japan.

The tournament is reduced to 12 teams, with controversy over Samoa being invited to compete ahead of Wales.

August 2006

The tournament takes place outside of Europe for the first time, with Canada hosting in Edmonton from 31 August to 17 September.

Women's Rugby World Cup history

Two Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers deliver the trophy at the 2006 final (Getty Images)

Yet the name engraved on the trophy is the same as New Zealand beat England 25-17 in the final.

May 2009

With England as hosts for RWC 2010, it is announced that the semi-finals, third-place play-off and final will all be staged at the Stoop.

September 2010

New Zealand make it four straight World Cup wins by beating England 13-10 in the final in front of a then record crowd of 13,253.

Kelly Brazier kicks eight points and Carla Hohepa scores a try. Australia record their best finish of third.

June 2011

France are named as hosts for the 2014 tournament, with the semi-finals, bronze final and final again taking place at a big venue – Stade Francais’ Stade Jean-Bouin.

August 2014

Ireland stun New Zealand and end the defending champions’ 20-match unbeaten run in the tournament by winning 17-14 in their pool match.

They become the first Ireland team to beat NZ while the Black Ferns fail to reach the semi-finals for the first time.

August 2014

England are crowned world champions for the first time in 20 years after beating Canada 21-9 in the final thanks to tries by Danielle Waterman and Emily Scarratt, who also kicks 11 points.

March 2015

The IRB announces Ireland as hosts for the 2017 World Cup, the three-year gap introduced to avoid clashing with major events, including the Sevens World Cup, and ensure a two-year interval between men’s and women’s tournament going forward. A four-year cycle will resume after 2017.

August 2017

New Zealand get back to winning ways by beating England 41-32 in what is regarded as the best women’s final to date at Ravenhill.

A crowd of more than 17,000 in Belfast sees 11 tries scored, including a hat-trick for Black Ferns prop Toka Natua.

August 2019

World Rugby announces that all Rugby World Cups going forward will be gender neutral, so distinguished by year rather than having the ‘Women’s’ prefix.

May 2021

Rugby World Cup 2021, which is due to take place in New Zealand in September and October, is postponed until 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It will be the first time the women’s tournament will be staged in the southern hemisphere.

February 2022

Scotland become the last team to qualify for RWC 2021, beating Colombia 59-3 in Dubai. They had previously ended Ireland’s hopes of making the tournament with a last-minute victory in the European qualifiers in Italy.

October 2022

The ninth edition of the tournament kicks off in Auckland, with Rita Ora performing on the opening day at Eden Park.

Women’s Rugby World Cup Winners

A full list of all the women’s champions in Rugby World Cup history…

1991 – USA (beat England 19-6 in the final)

1994 – England (beat USA 38-23 in the final)

1998 – New Zealand (beat USA 44-12 in the final)

2002 – New Zealand (beat England 19-9 in the final)

2006 – New Zealand (beat England 25-17 in the final)

2010 – New Zealand (beat England 13-10 in the final)

2014 – England (beat Canada 21-9 in the final)

2017 – New Zealand (beat England 41-32 in the final)

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