The Rugby Union World Cup, commonly referred to simply as the Rugby World Cup, is arranged by the International Rugby Board and has been held every four years since 1987. It is thus much younger than the Rugby League World Cup which dates back to 1954.
Before the institution of the Rugby World Cup, all international rugby union competitions except the Summer Olympics were limited to a specific region. There is for instance the Home Nations Championship (today named Six Nations Championship) which has been around since 1883. Originally, it was open only for the national teams of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, before welcoming France (1910) and Italy (2000).
Rugby Union was removed from the Summer Olympics after the 1924 Olympics in Paris. The idea of a Rugby Union World Cup surfaced now and then through the decades, but it never caught root in the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB). In the early 1980’s, the Australian Rugby Union and the New Zealand Rugby Union both asked IRFB permission to host a World Cup, and in 1985 France had joined their efforts to create a world-wide rugby contest. Even the South African Rugby Union supported the idea, even though the international sports boycott of the apartheid regime meant that they could not participate. Eventually, one English and one Welsh delegate switched sides to support the cup and the IRFB approved the cup by 10 votes to 6. The very first Rugby Union World Cup was held in 1987 and hosted by Australia and New Zealand. Sixteen national teams participated and the gold medal went to New Zealand.
The first Rugby Union World Cup had no qualification stage, but today twelve of the positions are filled by automatic qualification and eight through a region based system. All teams that finished first, second or third in the group stage of the previous tournament are automatically qualified. Of the remaining eight slots, Europe gets two, the Americas gets two, Africa gets one, Asia gets one and Oceania gets one, and the last spot is determined by a play-off.
The 20 teams that qualify compete over a month in the host nation or nations. They are divided into four pools (A, B, C and D), and seeded based on the IRB World Rankings. Each pool receives one of the four highest seeded teams, one of the teams ranked 5-8 and one of the teams ranked 9-12. The remaining spots in the teams are filled by the remaining qualifiers.
Within the pool, each team will meat each other team once. The winner and runner-up proceeds to the knock-out stage where quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final are played. The winner of the Rugby Union World Cup receives the William Webb Ellis Cup.
The Rugby Union World Cup is a fairly young competition, but it is attracting more and more interest from the sportsbetting community and it is today possible to find bookmakers who offer odds for the world cup. The recent boom in internet betting has aided this development and it is today possible to place a bet on the Rugby Union World Cup even if you happen to be in a country where rugby is not a widely played sport.