A brief history of the Women's Rugby World Cup

International Rugby Board     16 Jul 2014     International Rugby Board

Women's rugby has experienced phenomenal growth in recent times and the number of women and girls playing the game currently stands at 1.5 million, a quarter of the overall total.

Much of that growth over the past five years has been driven by Olympic inclusion, the inception of the IRB Women's Sevens World Series, Rugby World Cup Sevens and ongoing work between national unions and Olympic Committees.

However, many countries have deep roots in the women's 15-a-side game, which has already seen seven world tournaments, four sanctioned by the IRB and three 'unofficial World Cups'.

Here we provide a brief history of the Women's Rugby World Cup movement.

1990 World Rugby Festival for Women

A tournament that featured hosts New Zealand, USA, Netherlands and Russia. New Zealand emerged winners, defeating the United States in the final.

1991 Women's World Cup (non-sanctioned)

The first tournament referred to as a Women's World Cup was hosted by Wales and featured 12 countries. England and USA booked their places in the inaugural final by shutting out France and New Zealand respectively, with the women from North America getting their hands on the silverware with a 19-6 victory. France and New Zealand shared third. Canada beat Spain 18–4 to take the Plate and fifth place.

1994 Women's World Cup (non-sanctioned)

After the first tournament it was decided to move the event to the year before the men's Rugby World Cup and the tournament was hosted in Scotland. Kazakhstan and Ireland were welcomed into the fold. England exacted revenge for their defeat at the hands of the Women’s Eagles three years earlier with a 38-23 victory in the final, while France beat Wales 27-0 to finish third.

1998 Women's Rugby World Cup

The 1998 tournament was the first officially sanctioned by the IRB, played in Amsterdam, Netherlands. A record 16 teams competed, including New Zealand who had missed the previous event. The Black Ferns, led by inspirational skipper Farah Palmer, inflicted a record 134-6 defeat on tournament newcomers Germany and went on to beat USA 44-12 in the final to claim their first title. England took third with a 31-15 victory over Canada.

2002 Women's Rugby World Cup

Spain hosted the 2002 tournament which saw New Zealand successfully defend their title. Once again the Black Ferns put a century of points on Germany as they eased their way through to the final at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona. England were beaten19-9 in a match that produced some of the best rugby seen in women’s rugby up until that point. France overcame Canada 41-7 to claim third. Samoa enjoyed a dream debut on the WRWC stage with a 22-0 win over Ireland in their first ever match.

2006 Women's Rugby World Cup

The 2006 tournament was hosted in Edmonton, Canada, the first major international rugby union tournament - and Women's World Cup - held in North America. New Zealand defeated England in the final 25-17 to win their third successive title and France again beat Canada to third place with a 17-8 win. South Africa became the first African nation to compete in the tournament.

2010 Women's Rugby World Cup

In 2008 four countries expressed interest in hosting the 2010 tournament and, after considering bids from the Rugby Football Union, the German Rugby Federation, the Kazakhstan Rugby Union and South African Rugby Union, the IRB awarded the tournament to England. Following the opening rounds played at the Surrey Sports Park, the final was played at a packed Twickenham Stoop, home to Harlequins, where New Zealand again triumphed against England, this time 13-10, to deny the hosts and claim their fourth successive title.