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Competitions and Rankings

Competitions and Rankings

A comprehensive calendar of competitions played under World Rugby approved rules and regulations provides teams with a chance to regularly measure themselves on the global stage.

Rugby World Cup is the flagship tournament of the global game in both men’s and women’s rugby and is typically staged in four-yearly cycles for teams who have passed specified qualification criteria.

Since the inaugural tournament in 1987, Rugby World Cups have been held in Europe, North America, Africa, Oceania and most recently in Asia. The men’s tournament in Japan in 2019 was viewed by 857 million people around the world.

Women’s Rugby World Cup has also experienced significant growth since it was first held in 1991 with the 2017 edition in Ireland clocking up a total of 45 million video views, a reach of more than 70 million through the five match days and more than 750,000 fans from 230 countries and territories visiting the official website. 

The scope of teams involved in a Rugby World Cup and the competitiveness on the field of play continues to grow with every tournament, and with the interest it commands, Rugby World Cup is now recognised as the third biggest sporting event in the world, behind only the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games.

Rugby sevens

Meanwhile, Rugby World Cup Sevens is another global tournament that continues to go from strength to strength with the 2022 edition to take place in South Africa. In addition to the well-established HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, which began in 1999 for the men’s and 2012 for the women’s, Rugby World Cup Sevens has raised awareness and opened up new territories to the sport.

Thanks to World Rugby’s relationship with other governing bodies, rugby sevens is also a key component in the schedule for such high-profile multisport events as the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, the Pan American Games and the Asian Games. 

The World Rugby U20 Championship and its sister tournament, the World Rugby U20 Trophy, also play important roles in the player development pathway. Nearly 1,300 players have graduated to test rugby from the two tournaments combined.

Meanwhile, the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup and World Rugby Pacific Challenge offer a competitive playing environment for nations to widen the base of domestic players ready to step up to the highest level.

World Rugby Rankings

Designed to reflect the relative strength of teams, the World Rugby Rankings were first introduced in 2003 for men and in 2016 for women.

Test matches involving two World Rugby full member unions see points awarded or deducted on an exchange basis depending on the outcome. 

Home advantage and the respective positions of the teams are key factors in determining the number of points at stake, while point exchanges are doubled during Rugby World Cups to reflect the importance of the tournaments.