The 1987 Rugby World Cup was the first Rugby World Cup. New Zealand and Australia agreed to co-host the tournament. New Zealand hosted 21 matches (17 pool stage matches, two quarter-finals, the third-place play-off and the final) while Australia hosted 11 matches (seven pool matches, two quarter-finals and both semi-finals). The event was won by co-hosts New Zealand, who were the strong favourites and won all their matches comfortably. France were losing finalists and Wales came in third: Australia, having been second favourites, finished fourth after conceding crucial tries in the dying seconds of both the semi-final against France and the third-place play-off against Wales. Sixteen teams competed in the inaugural tournament. Seven of the 16 places were automatically filled by the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) members – New Zealand, Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and France. South Africa was unable to compete because of the international sporting boycott due to apartheid. There was no qualification process to fill the remaining nine spots. Instead invitations were sent out to Argentina, Fiji, Italy, Canada, Romania, Tonga, Japan, Zimbabwe and the United States. This left Western Samoa controversially excluded, despite their better playing standard than some of the teams invited. The USSR were to be invited but they declined the invitation on political grounds, allegedly due to the continued IRFB membership of South Africa. The tournament witnessed a number of one-sided matches, with the seven traditional IRFB members proving too strong for the other teams. Half of the 24 matches across the four pools saw one team score 40 or more points. New Zealand defeated France 29–9 in the final at Eden Park in Auckland. The New Zealand team was captained by David Kirk and included such rugby greats as Sean Fitzpatrick, John Kirwan, Grant Fox and Michael Jones. The tournament was seen as a major success and proved that the event was viable in the long term. It also led to many countries joining the International Rugby Football Board which in turn led the IRFB to become the true authority for the running of international rugby union.

Participating nations

There was no qualification for the inaugural World Cup so the tournament comprised the seven members of the IRFB, with the remaining nine places filled by teams invited by the IRFB. *South Africa was excluded due to its pro-apartheid policies.




Pools and format

*Pool 1 was played in Australia *Pool 2 was played with five matches held in New Zealand and one in Australia *Pool 3 was played in New Zealand *Pool 4 was played in New Zealand The inaugural World Cup was contested by 16 nations. There was no qualifying tournament to determine the participants; instead, the 16 nations were invited by the International Rugby Football Board to compete. The simple 16-team pool/knock-out format was used with the teams divided into four pools of four, with each team playing the others in their pool once, for a total of three matches per team in the pool stage. Nations were awarded two points for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss: teams finishing level on points were separated by tries scored, rather than total points difference (had it been otherwise, Argentina would have taken second place in Group C ahead of Fiji, although France would still have won Group D.) The top two nations of every pool advanced to the quarter-finals. The runners-up of each pool faced the winners of a different pool in the quarter-finals. A standard single-elimination tournament followed, with the losers of the semi-finals contesting an additional play-off match to determine third place. A total of 32 matches (24 in the pool stage and eight in the knock-out stage) were played in the tournament over 29 days from 22 May to 20 June 1987.

Pool stage

Pool 1

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Pool 2

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Pool 3

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Pool 4

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Knockout stage


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Third-place play-off



The tournament's top point scorer was New Zealand's Grant Fox, who scored 126 points. Craig Green and John Kirwan scored the most tries, six in total.


The event was broadcast in Australia by ABC and in the United Kingdom by the BBC.


{{DEFAULTSORT:World Cup 1987 Category:1987 in Australian rugby union Category:1987 in New Zealand rugby union Category:International rugby union competitions hosted by Australia Category:International rugby union competitions hosted by New Zealand Rugby Rugby Rugby Rugby Rugby Rugby