The History of the Webb Ellis Cup
The Webb Ellis Cup is the trophy that will be presented to the winner of the Rugby World Cup 2011. The Ellis Cup is named after William Webb Ellis, an Anglican clergyman who is credited for allegedly being the inventor of rugby while he was a student at Rugby School in England. Although the story of how William Webb Ellis founded the game of rugby, by picking up and running with a soccer ball, is now generally seen as false, the trophy which bears his name has become synonymous with one of the top three sporting extravaganzas in the world.
Webb Ellis Cup Winners
The 38 centimetre Webb Ellis Cup is silver gilt, braced by two cast scroll handles bearing the head of a satyr and a nymph, and has been awarded to the winner of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) since 1987, when the All Blacks held it aloft at the inaugural World Cup competition. New Zealand (1987), Australia (1991 and 1999), South Africa (1995 and 2007), and England (2003), have all held the Webb Ellis Trophy. No team has ever been awarded the Webb Ellis Cup twice in defence of their World Cup title.
South Africa is the current holder of the William Webb Ellis Cup, having beaten England 15 – 6 in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final in Paris. The Ellis Cup remained on display in Newlands, South Africa for two years following their victory, and was returned to Ireland and the headquarters of the IRB last year. At present the Webb Ellis Cup is on tour around New Zealand, along with the Women’s World Cup, Junior World Cup, Hillary Shield, Bledisloe Cup, and Tri Nations trophies.
The William Webb Ellis Cup, whilst the most renowned symbol of the Rugby World Cup (RWC), will not be the only piece of rugby history at the World Cup. The opening game of each World Cup to date has been started by the same whistle, which is nearly one hundred years old.
The chance to raise Webb Ellis Cup in victory has provided the sport with many unforgettable moments of extreme skill, passion, and commitment. Rugby fans will remember Nelson Mandela awarding the William Webb Ellis Cup in his Springbok cap and jersey, and making of All Black legend Jonah Lomu, when it is said that an anonymous fax to the New Zealand rugby team before they played England stated, “Remember that rugby is a team game, all 14 of you make sure you pass the ball to Jonah.”