HERE you'll find a history of all the major rugby tournaments that run at any time across the globe.
Whenever there is a major international tournament running [eg Tri Nations, British & Irish Lions, Rugby World Cup, Six Nations etc.], an entire section in Kick Off will be dedicated to it. There will be weekly updates of the matches with photos, tables and the latest news form the tournament.
The current tournament we are covering is the Rugby World Cup so just click on the link below for the latest...
Below we have an overview and history of a selection of current tournaments as a starter for 10.
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IN 1871, England and Scotland played the first rugby union international. After 12 years of occasional friendly matches between the teams, the inaugural Home International Championship, comprising England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales was played in 1883. England won the first series, along with a Triple Crown. Up until 1893, England and Scotland were the only champions, with Wales winning their first title that season. Ireland won their first title the following season. The 1908 and 1909 championships won by Wales, although won during the Home Nations era, could be regarded as Grand Slams, as they also defeated France both seasons.
In 1910 the French, who had played in four of the tournaments up to that point, officially joined the competition and coined the phrase "Five Nations". England won the first championship of the new era, with the Welsh achieving the first Grand Slam the following year. The competition was suspended during World War I (1914-18). In 1931, France were ejected from the tournament, which reverted to being the "Home Nations" from 1932 through to 1939. The competition was suspended again during World War II (1939-1945). With France back in the competition, the Five Nations resumed in 1947, with a shared victory for England and Wales. France won their first shared title in 1954, and their first outright title in 1959.
By the 1970s the Five Nations Championship had become the pre-eminent series in Northern hemisphere rugby union with matches becoming all-ticket affairs, gaining huge popularity and a large television audience. The 1972 tournament was not finished after Scotland and Wales refused to play in Dublin. The season after was unique for a five-way tie, with every nation having won and lost two games. The 1970s marked the golden age for Welsh rugby; winning three Grand Slams and one Triple Crown during the decade. Until 1993, there was no tangible reward for winning the Five Nations championship. The Trophy was presented for the first time in 1993 to France.
France were the first winners of the new trophy, followed by Wales and then England. Scotland's first success came in season 1998-99 with Ireland being the latest winners in 2009. Scotland was the last nation to win the Five Nations Trophy as such because Italy joined the competition in 2000 and the tournament became known as the "Six Nations Championship". England were the first nation to win the trophy under the new format, winning the 2000 competition.
Played annually, the format of the Championship is simple: each team plays every other team once, with home field advantage alternating from one year to the next. Two points are awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. Unlike most other rugby union competitions the bonus point system is not used.
Victory in every game results in a 'Grand Slam'. Back to back Grand Slams have been achieved on five occasions, by Wales in 1908/1909, by England in 1913/1914, 1923/1924 and 1991/1992 and by France in 1997/1998. England holds the record for the number of Grand Slams won with 12, followed by Wales with 10, France with 8, Scotland with 3 and Ireland with 2.
Victory by any Home Nation over the other three Home Nations is a 'Triple Crown'. The Triple Crown has twice been won on four consecutive occasions, once by Wales in 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1979 and once by England in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998. England hold the record for the number of Triple Crowns won with 23, followed by Wales with 19, Scotland with 10 and Ireland with 10. Although this achievement has long been a feature of the tournament, it was not until 2006 that a physical trophy, commissioned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, was awarded.
The last-placed nation at the end of the tournament is said to have won the (purely figurative) Wooden Spoon.
Several individual competitions take place under the umbrella of the tournament. The oldest such regular competition is for the Calcutta Cup, contested annually between England and Scotland since 1879. Since 1988, the Millennium Trophy has been awarded to the winner of the game between England and Ireland. Since 2007, France and Italy also have their own trophy: the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy; it was created for the 200th anniversary of the Italian hero who helped unify Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was born in Nizza in 1807; the city became subsequently French with the current name of Nice in 1859.
Prior to 1994, teams equal on points shared the championship. After that date, ties were broken by considering the points difference of the teams. In 2005 Wales won the Grand Slam, becoming the first team ever to win a Grand Slam playing more games away than at home, a feat repeated by Ireland winning the last Grand Slam in 2009.
In 2006, France won the competition on points difference over Ireland. Ireland received the consolation prize of the Triple Crown Trophy, presented for the first time that year. Italy once more collected the Wooden Spoon, but showed considerable improvement over past years, earning a first-ever competition point away from home in a draw against Wales.
In 2007, France again won on points difference after four teams had at least a mathematical chance of topping the table going into the final week. The Italians achieved their first away win of the tournament beating Scotland in Edinburgh. It was also the first time they won two of their matches as they went on to beat Wales in Rome. Scotland won the wooden spoon and Ireland won the Triple Crown for the second straight year and third time in four years.Wales ended France's run in 2008 winning the Grand Slam for the first time since 2005 after a remarkable opening against England.
Trailing by 13 points Wales came from behind to win 26-19, thanks mainly to Mike Phillips' 70th -minute try, and dispatched Scotland 30-15, Italy 47-8, France 29-12 and Ireland 16-12. Wales wing Shane Williams was named the RBS Player of the Championship after scoring six tries while England, World Cup finalists in 2007, were forced to settle for second.
Ireland took a leaf out of Wales' book a year later ending a 61-year Grand Slam drought in a 2009 tournament in stark contrast to the 2008 one.
Whereas the excitement in 2008 came at the start of the tournament it wasn't until the end when the 2009 Championship came alive. Wales hosted Ireland in Cardiff with a Triple Crown on the line as well as knowing a 13-point win would be enough to retain their title.Drama ensued as with Ireland leading 17-15 at the death Welsh stand-off Stephen Jones missed a 50-metre penalty from halfway. England finished second as a result in their first tournament under Martin Johnson while France and Wales contested the first ever game played on a Friday night.
The 2010 Six Nations belonged to France as they won the Grand Slam for the first time since 2004.
Les Blues were rarely untroubled opening up with an 18-9 win over Scotland before defeating Ireland 33-10, Wales 26-20 and Italy 46-20. France had already won the Championship going into their final game with England after Ireland lost their second game of the tournament to Scotland hours earlier. But despite being pushed by England, who scored the only try of the game, France came out on top 12-10 at the Stade de France to win the Grand Slam. Ireland's 23-20 loss to Scotland in the final game of the campaign not only denied Ireland the Triple Crown but saw Italy receive the dreaded Wooden Spoon for the third year running.
England ended a run of eight years without a title as they wrapped up the 2011 RBS 6 Nations title.
Winger Chris Ashton was the spearhead, racking up six tries including four at home to Italy in a thumping 59-13 success. The Azzurri did however make history with a first championship win over France, stunning Les Bleus 22-21 in Rome. A controversial Mike Phillips try handed Wales a narrow 19-13 win over Ireland, but the Irish took their frustration out on England, denying them a Grand Slam with a convincing 24-8 win on the final weekend. And despite securing that historic victory over the French Italy again had to settle for the Wooden Spoon after a 21-8 defeat in Scotland in their final match.
Copy courtesy of RBS Six Nations
RBS Six Nations Past Title Winners
2002 France (Grand Slam)
2003 England (Grand Slam)
2004 France (Grand Slam)
2005 Wales (Grand Slam)
2008 Wales (Grand Slam)
2009 Ireland (Grand Slam)
2010 France (Grand Slam)
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COURTESY of Premier Rugby, the following is a brief history of the numerous incarnations of what has now become one of the world's most revered competitions, attracting players of an international calibre to our green and pleasant land.
The world's most competitive domestic rugby union competition is now Aviva Premiership Rugby.
The top flight league has evolved over time since beginning in 1987 when the Courage Leagues were formed - a league pyramid that had more than 1,000 clubs playing in 108 leagues - each with promotion and relegation. Previous to this, only friendlies were played and a regional cup competition existed.
(1987 - 1997)
Initially two teams, Bath and Leicester proved to be head and shoulders above anyone else in the Courage League and between them dominated the top of the table, with Wasps the only other side to be crowned champions in the first ten years.
Leicester were England's first official champions when they beat Waterloo on the last day of the 87/88 season.
The following year regular fixtures were introduced and Bath started their reign of domination, going on to win six titles in eight years as the men from the Rec took the English game by storm. Wasps interrupted their run in 1990 and Leicester won in 1995 - with Wasps claiming their second title in 1997.
By this stage the concept of professionalism was gaining momentum and the changes spread through the sport rapidly, altering the face of rugby from a game to a business.
ALLIED DUNBAR PREMIERSHIP
(1997 - 2000)
The Courage League had been very popular but the league really took off when Allied Dunbar took over the title sponsorship of Division One in 1996.
Newcastle was the first of the "professional" clubs as Sir John Hall dug deep into his pockets and made the club, formerly known as Gosforth, into the 1998 champions.
Leicester then flexed their considerable muscle and went on one of the greatest winning streaks ever. From 1999 to 2002 they were almost unstoppable as they claimed four consecutive titles. What was so impressive was their 57 unbeaten home wins that stretched from 30th December 1997 to 30th November 2002 and included 52 successive wins. So great was their superiority that they only lost 14 games out of the 92 games played over the four seasons.
(2000 - 2005)
By the end of the 1990s the Premiership had become the Zurich Premiership and had developed into the most competitive club competition in the world.
Over the years the format of the league developed and evolved, with the play-offs and a wildcard introduced.
London Wasps played the competition format to perfection, peaking at the right time to be crowned English Champions in 2003, 2004 and 2005 under the expert guidance of Director of Rugby Warren Gatland.
(2005 - 2010)
Guinness took over the title sponsorship from Zurich for the 2005/6 season and were rewarded with a new name on their new trophy as Sale Sharks won their first ever Premiership title.
London Wasps beat Leicester Tigers the following season as the first ever sell-out crowd saw England legends Lawrence Dallaglio and Martin Johnson make their final appearances.
Leicester Tigers then won three straight titles as they defeated Gloucester Rugby, London Irish and Saracens.
(2010 - PRESENT DAY)
In June 2010 Aviva took sponsorship of the tournament now known as Aviva Premiership Rugby.
In a repeat of the 09/10 final Saracens, billed as underdogs before the game, denied Leicester from winning their fourth consecutive Premiership title by winning their first. The same feat of first Premiership title was achieved by Harlequins in 2011/12.
English Premiership Past Title Winners
1997-98 Newcastle Falcons
1998-99 Leicester Tigers
1999-2000 Leicester Tigers
2000-1 Leicester Tigers
2001-2 Leicester Tigers
2002-3 London Wasps
2003-4 London Wasps
2004-5 London Wasps
2005-6 Sale Sharks
2006-7 Leicester Tigers
2007-8 London Wasps
2008-9 Leicester Tigers
2009-10 Leicester Tigers
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THE 11th season of the Celtic & Italian League competition saw a new title sponsor as RaboDirect came on board to form the RaboDirect PRO12 with a dozen talented teams chasing the 4 elusive play-off spots.
Leinster defeat Munster 24-20 at Lansdowne Road to seal victory in an all-Irish final of the inaugural season of the competition
As the league is expanded to 16 teams Munster make good on the disappointment of the previous season to defeat Neath 37-17 in the final
As the competition modifies into solely a league-based format with just 12 teams, the Scarlets become the first Welsh representatives to win the championship
The league reduces to 11 teams with the demise of the Celtic Warriors and the Ospreys follow the Scarlets' lead to make it two titles in a row for the Welsh regions
Having come close in 2003, Ulster bring the league title back in Irish favour by defeating the reigning champions 19-17 on the final weekend of the season
Leinster make up for falling short in 2006-2007 and win the Magners League six seasons after claiming the inaugural championship title
Having been at or near the top all season Munster overtook their nearest rivals Ospreys in early January and led from the front to claim their second Celtic title with games still in hand.
In further moves to align itself with other professional rugby tournaments around the world, Celtic Rugby introduce end of season play-offs to determine the Magners League Champions with the top four teams qualifying for the knockout stage.
The 10th season of the Magners League saw Italy join Ireland, Scotland and Wales in a 12-team cross-border competition; the agreement paving the way for the introduction of two new Italian super sides, Benetton Treviso and Aironi Rugby.
Change was afoot from the outset of the competition's 11th season with a new title sponsor in the shape of RaboDirect, a new competition name, and a plethora of young stars from all 12 teams emerging throughout the season.
After a season of upheaval at the Ospreys, new coach Steve Tandy sparked a wave of momentum that the Swansea-based region rode all the way to the final, losing only 2 games from their last 8.
A destruction of Munster followed in the Play-Offs and only Leinster stood between them and victory. The Irish had eliminated Glasgow Warriors before winning the European Cup and came close to securing the double, losing by a single point in the inaugural RaboDirect PRO12 Final.
Ospreys won the competition for the 4th time, winnng 31-30, thanks to a late Shane Williams try, converted by a rejuvenated Dan Biggar.
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THE European Rugby Cup known as the Heineken Cup is the senior European competition involving leading club, regional and provincial teams from the six IRB nations in Europe: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. Romania competed in the first year of the competition only. The competition is organised by the European Rugby Cup, who are also responsible for the secondary championship, the Amlin Challenge Cup. It is one of the most prestigious trophies in the sport. The tournament was launched in the European summer of 1995 on the initiative of the then Five Nations committee to provide a new level of professional cross-border competition. The competition is known as the H-Cup in France because of alcohol advertising.
Each European nation has a different qualifying system, though in total, 24 teams contest the pool stages in six pools of four. According to performances, the number of clubs from each nation changes. The tournament is held from October to May, with various stages scheduled around domestic club competitions.
The Heineken Cup is open to clubs in the Magners League, Guinness Premiership, Super 10 and the Top 14. Clubs that do not qualify for the Heineken Cup can enter the European Challenge Cup.
22 places are awarded by country, with each country deciding how to allocate their alloted places:
England: 6 teams (selected by performance in Guinness Premiership)
France: 6 teams (selected by performance in Top 14 Championship)
Ireland: 3 teams (selected by performance in Magners League)
Wales: 3 teams (selected by performance in Magners League)
Scotland: 2 teams (selected by participation in Magners League)
Italy: 2 teams (selected by performance in Super 10 Championship)
From the 2009/10 season both the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup winners will qualify automatically for the following season’s Heineken Cup and will each earn an extra Heineken Cup spot for their countries – over and above their guaranteed allocations.
Both Ireland and Wales can have four teams competed in the Heineken Cup if one their clubs win the Heineken Cup or the European Challenge Cup.
However, England and France, who have six automatic places, will only be allowed a maximum of seven teams, so if either country wins both the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup the second additional spot will pass on to the club with the highest ERC European Ranking who has not already qualified from any of the other five nations.
The changes mean that the Italian / Celtic League 24th Place Play-Off is no longer required and the extra place earned by England this year, which was available to the most successful nation from England, France or Italy, is also no longer applicable.
The 23rd and 24th Heineken Cup places will go to the nation(s) of the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup winners.
The 2008–09 tournament was won by Ireland's Leinster, who beat the Leicester Tigers of England 19–16 in the final at Murrayfield in Edinburgh. Toulouse have been the most successful team, winning the competition three times.
Leinster won the title in 2009 in their first ever final after beating Munster in the semi-final in front of a then world record Rugby Union club match attendance in Croke Park. They beat the Leicester Tigers in the final at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. They also beat Harlequins 6-5 in the quarter finals at Twickenham Stoop, in the famous Bloodgate scandal.
In the 2010 final, Toulouse defeated Biarritz Olympique in the Stade de France to claim their fourth title, a Heineken Cup record.
The sixteenth Heineken Cup tournament in 2011 resulted in an Irish province lifting the title for the fourth time in six years as Leinster recorded their second triumph in the competition. They defeated former multiple Heineken Cup winners Leicester and Toulouse in the quarter and semi finals. At the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, in front of 72,000 spectators, Leinster fought back from a 22-6 half-time deficit in the final against Northampton Saints, scoring 27 unanswered points in 26 second-half minutes, winning 33-22 in one of the tournament's greatest comebacks. Jonathan Sexton won the man-of-the-match award, having scored 28 of Leinster's points total, which included two tries, three conversions, and four penalties.
Leinster successfully defended their crown in 2012 at Twickenham, eclipsing fellow Irish province and former champions Ulster 42-14 to establish the highest Heineken Cup final winning margin. The performance broke a number of Heineken Cup Final records. Leinster became only the second team to win back-to-back titles, and the only team ever to win three championships in four years. In addition, the game had the highest attendance at a final (81,774), the highest number of tries (5) and points (42) scored by one team and the highest points difference (28).
Heineken Cup Past Title Winners
1995-6 Toulouse [France]
1996-7 Brive [France]
1997-8 Bath [England]
1998-9 Ulster [Ireland]
1999-2000 Northampton Saints [England]
2000-1 Leicester Tigers [England]
2002-3 Leicester Tigers [England]
2003-4 London Wasps [England]
2004-5 Toulouse [France]
2005-6 London Wasps [England]
2006-7 Toulouse [France]
2007-8 Munster [Ireland]
2008-9 Leinster [Ireland]
2009-10 Toulouse [France]
2010-11 Leinster [Ireland]
2011-12 Leinster [Ireland]
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THE inaugural Amlin Challenge Cup saw the introduction of three of the Pool runner-ups from the Heineken Cup at the quarter-finals with the winner automatically qualifying for the 2010/11 Heineken Cup - and also earning an additional Heineken Cup spot for their country.
The 2009/10 European season kicked-off with Amlin Challenge Cup action on 8th October 2009 with the clash of Worcester Warriors and Montpellier live on Sky Sports and France 4, while Friday 9th October saw Castres Olympique welcome Toulon live on Eurosport France. A minimum of two games are broadcast live from each of the 6 Pool weekends.
Twenty teams from England, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Romania - including former double Heineken Cup winners London Wasps - contested the 2009/10 Amlin Challenge Cup in which a host of international stars were on parade.
Cardiff Blues benefited from the new format in its first year, winning the first ever Challenge Cup for the club and were also the first Welsh Club to win any European club tournament. Cardiff beat Toulon 28-21 in the final at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, which was also the first final to have no English involvement for 10 years.
England made a triumphant return to the final in 2011, with Harlequins defeating Stade Français 19-18 with a try in the last 5 minutes by Argentinian wing, Gonzalo Camacho. This meant Harlequins became the first team to win the Challenge Cup three times and with this entered the Heineken Cup. The final was also notable in that it involved two teams that began the season in the Challenge Cup.
The 2011–12 competition was dominated by French sides, with all four semi-finalists coming from that country. Biarritz, which had parachuted in from the Heineken Cup, defeated Toulon to claim their first Challenge Cup.
Copy courtesy of ERC Rugby
European Challenge Cup Past Title Winners
1996-7 Bourgoin [France]
1997-8 Colomiers [France]
1998-9 Montferrand [France]
1999-2000 Pau [France]
2000-1 NEC Harlequins [England]
2001-2 Sale Sharks [England]
2002-3 London Wasps [England]
2003-4 NEC Harlequins [England]
2004-5 Sale Sharks [England]
2005-6 Gloucester Rugby [England]
2006-7 Clermont Auvergne [France]
2007-8 Bath Rugby [England]
2008-9 Northampton Saints [England]
Amlin Challenge Cup Past Title Winners
2009-10 Cardiff Blues [Wales]
2010-11 Harlequins [England]
2011-12 Biarritz [France]
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THE Top 14 is a rugby union club competition which is played in France. The Top 14 is at the top of the national league system of French National Rugby League. There is promotion and relegation between the Top 14 and the next level down, the Rugby Pro D2. The fourteen best rugby teams in France participate in the competition, hence the name Top 14, though the competition was previously known as the Top 16.
The first ever final took place in 1892, between two Paris-based sides, Stade Français and Racing Club, with the latter becoming the inaugural champions. The competition has been held on an annual basis since, with the exception being between 1915 and 1919 because of World War I. The current champions are Perpignan.
The Top 14 also serves as the qualification route for French clubs into the two European Rugby competitions; the Heineken Cup and the European Challenge Cup. A minimum of six French clubs qualify for top level of competition, the Heineken Cup. The top six ranked French clubs (one through to six on the points ladder) at the end of the regular season qualify for the following season's Heineken Cup. In accordance with rules changes that take effect with the 2009–10 season, the winners of the Heineken and Challenge Cups each receive automatic Heineken Cup berths for the following season; unlike past years, these berths are not at the expense of a country's allocation. However, England and France are capped at seven Heineken Cup berths each. If either country produces both Cup winners in the same season, one of its league berths in the Heineken Cup will instead go to the club that is ranked highest in the European Rugby Club Rankings that is (1) not of that country and (2) not already qualified for the Heineken Cup. This means that France will have seven berths if either of the following happens:
A French club wins either of the two Cup competitions.
English clubs win both Cup competitions, and the club that stands highest in the ERC Rankings among those that did not otherwise qualify for the Heineken Cup is French.
All Top 14 clubs that do not qualify for the Heineken Cup automatically qualify for the Challenge Cup. This means that all Top 14 clubs will participate in European competition during a given season.
The French clubs have had huge success in the European competitions. The inaugural Heineken Cup, the 1995-96 season was won by Toulouse, which would lead to two other championships as well (2002-03 and (2004-05). It would also not be until the fifth championship game until there was no French team in the final. In addition, there have also been two occasions where the final was an all French encounter (Toulouse v Perpignan in 2002-03 and Toulouse v Paris in 2004-05).
Top 14 Past Title Winners
1995-6 Stade Toulousain
1996-7 Stade Toulousain
1997-8 Stade Français
1998-9 Stade Toulousain
1999-2000 Stade Français
2000-1 Stade Toulousain
2001-2 Biarritz Olympique
2002-3 Stade Français
2003-4 Stade Français
2004-5 Biarritz Olympique
2005-6 Biarritz Olympique
2006-7 Stade Français
2007-8 Stade Toulousain
2008-9 US Perpignan
2009-10 Clermont Auvergne
2010-11 Stade Toulousain
2011-12 Stade Toulousain
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THE Tri Nations is an international rugby union competition that is contested annually by Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The competition is organized by SANZAR, a consortium formed by the three countries' rugby governing bodies – the Australian Rugby Union, the New Zealand Rugby Union and the South African Rugby Union. These three teams have dominated international rankings in recent years and some consider the Tri Nations to be the toughest competition in international rugby.
In 2009, Argentina was formally invited to join the Tri Nations, and all conditions have now been fulfilled. The Tri Nations will become the Four Nations in 2012 when the negotiation of a participation agreement with the UAR is complete.
The series is played on a home-and-away basis. From the first tournament in 1996 through 2005,the three teams played each other twice. Since then, each team has played the others three times, except in the Rugby World Cup year of 2007 when the series reverted to a double round-robin. Since the inception of the series the games played between Australia and New Zealand also go toward determining the winner of the Bledisloe Cup each year. The Freedom Cup is contested between New Zealand and South Africa, and the Mandela Challenge Plate between Australia and South Africa.
The opening tournament of 1996 was dominated by the All Blacks who stormed to victory undefeated, leaving the Springboks and the Wallabies with just one win each—against each other. The opening exchange was between New Zealand and Australia, New Zealand winning by over 40 points and, although they won all four of their games, the later matches were a lot closer in their scorelines. The launch of the Tri Nations was considered a huge success.
A similar story unfolded the following year, 1997. The All Blacks maintained their dominance over the new competition and again went undefeated. Australia and South Africa found themselves in similar position again with just one win each. The 1998 series was something of a turnaround for all nations with South Africa winning the tournament and Australia finishing second. Two-time winner New Zealand finished at the bottom with no wins. In the following tournament in 1999 New Zealand again became Tri Nations champions and defending champions South Africa fell to the bottom.
Australia, the World Champions at the time, won their first Tri Nations championship in 2000. That tournament is also notable for Australia’s opening match against New Zealand at Stadium Australia where 109,874 spectators attended. Jonah Lomu scored a try in injury time to grab the win for the All Blacks. The game was hailed as one of the greatest ever, and the end competition thought by some to be the best Tri Nations ever at the time.
Australia continued their reign as Tri Nations champions by successfully defending the trophy the following year. Their run ended in 2002 when the All Blacks won the championship again. New Zealand successfully defended it in 2003. South Africa won the 2004 tournament where the three nations finished with two wins each. The Springboks emerged as winners due to their superior table points. The trophy returned to New Zealand in 2005 and the Wallabies failed to win a game. In 2006 New Zealand retained the trophy with 2 games still to be played. In 2007, the Tri Nations was shortened to two games against either team, because it clashed with the Rugby World Cup in France. The Tri Nations championship and the Bledisloe Cup came down to the final match, between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park. New Zealand ran out easy winners, and lifted both the trophies. There was some controversy as South Africa fielded less than a full strength squad in the away legs in Australia and New Zealand in anticipation of the World Cup. New Zealand defended their title in 2008, in beating Australia in the final match in Brisbane. In 2009, South Africa claimed the season crown in their final match with an away win over New Zealand in Hamilton.
Tri Nations Past Title Winners
1996 New Zealand
1997 New Zealand
1998 South Africa
1999 New Zealand
2002 New Zealand
2003 New Zealand
2004 South Africa
2005 New Zealand
2006 New Zealand
2007 New Zealand
2008 New Zealand
2009 South Africa
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Something Super is coming to Rugby...
IN 2011, Super 14 has been transformed. Super Rugby boasts an exciting new-look format. A 15th team has been established in Australia - the Melbourne Rebels. The competition has moved to a five-team Conference system and an expanded finals series will be introduced. It is bigger, better and the best yet...
THE Super Rugby competition is not only expanded to 15 teams in 2011, it is undergoing a significant format revamp. A new three-Conference system is in place where the five teams within each country make up nationally-based Conferences and play their four ‘local’ rivals on a home and away basis (eight games in total). They also play four of the other five teams in each of the other two Conferences on a home or away basis (another eight games).
This leads to an overall program of 16 games per team in the regular season, as opposed to the previous 13 - and separate Australian Conference, South African Conference and New Zealand Conference tables will chart the fortunes of teams in each country.
A three-week finals series involving six teams - as opposed to the previous two-week playoffs for four teams - will further increase the length of the season. At the end of the regular season matches, the top team in each Conference will qualify for the finals. The other three teams to qualify will be the sides with the most number of competition points - irrespective of the Conference in which they are based. The Conference winners are also ensured of a home finals match. Therefore, at least one finals match will be played in each country each year.
SUPER RUGBY SNAPSHOT...
- An increase in overall matches from 94 to 125 (an increase of 33%)
- A 50% increase in the length of the season in non-World Cup years – from 16 weeks to 24 weeks
- A 31% increase in the length of the season in World Cup years – from 16 weeks to 21 weeks
- Each team will play 12 of its 16 regular-season games within its own country – with only four matches overseas
- There will be 20 regular season local derbies in each country as opposed to six in Australia, 10 in South Africa and10 in New Zealand under the Super 14 format
- Half of all regular season matches will be local derbies
- 40 Super Rugby regular season matches played in each country each season as opposed to 26 in Australia under the Super 14 structure and 32 or 33 in South Africa and New Zealand
• The top team in each Conference will automatically advance to the finals in positions 1, 2 or 3 (depending on their individual competition points totals)
• The other three teams to advance will be those with the highest number of competition points outside of the Conference winners
• The teams qualifying in 4th, 5th and 6th can come from any Conference - they could all come from one Conference
• In week one of the finals the teams qualifying 1st and 2nd will rest
• The 3rd placed team, as a Conference winner, will host the 6th placed team in a sudden-death Qualifier
• The 4th placed team will host the 5th placed team in another sudden-death Qualifier
• The two winners will play the top two sides in Semis the following week
• The winners of the Semis will meet in the Final
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THE Super 14 is the largest Rugby union competition in the southern hemisphere, consisting of four teams from Australia (Queensland Reds, New South Wales Waratahs, ACT Brumbies and Western Force), five teams from New Zealand (The Blues, The Chiefs, The Hurricanes, The Crusaders and The Highlanders) and five teams from South Africa The Cheetahs, The Stormers, The Sharks, The Lions and The Bulls). The fourteen sides all play against one another once in the regular season, with no divisional or pool system. With each team granted one bye week, this phase of the competition runs for fourteen weeks.
The teams in the top four places on the competition ladder after the regular season enter the two-week knockout phase of the tournament. Two semi-finals (in which the top-ranked team hosts the fourth, and second-ranked hosts the third) are contested to decide the two finalists, which is played at the highest ranked winner's home ground, as opposed to a pre-selected neutral venue.
The current competition was inaugurated in 1996, and from the first season through to 2005, the competition was known as Super 12; the name change came about following the expansion for the 2006 season. The term Super Rugby is sometimes used when talking about the Super 14 and Super 12 collectively. Matches are now broadcast in 41 countries.
The competition will be known as the Super 15 from Season 2011, as a 15th franchise from the Australian state of Victoria, the Melbourne Rebels have been awarded a licence.
Before 1996, regular competitive rugby union had taken shape in a number of southern hemisphere competitions, the earliest of which was the South Pacific Championship, which was launched in 1986. The original competition consisted of three teams from New Zealand; Auckland, Canterbury, Wellington along with two Australian teams; Queensland and New South Wales, and Fiji. The competition was relaunched as the Super Six in 1992.
In 1992, the Super 10 replaced the South Pacific Championship and Super Six tournaments. With South Africa being readmitted into international sport following the dismantling of apartheid, there was an opportunity to launch an expanded competition which would also feature South Africa's top provincial teams. The inaugural competition featured the following teams: Waikato, Auckland, Otago and North Harbour (New Zealand); Natal Sharks, Transvaal and Northern Transvaal (South Africa); Queensland and New South Wales (Australia), Western Samoa (Pacific Nations representative). The Super 10 was won by Transvaal (South Africa) in 1993, and by Queensland (Australia) in 1994 and 1995. Waikato won the first season 29–12 over Auckland.
The official declaration of professionalism in rugby union in August 1995 led to a restructuring of the Super 10 competition. Following the success of the 1995 World Cup Australia, New Zealand and South Africa rugby boards formed SANZAR (South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby) to administer an annual 12-team provincial/franchise based competition pitting regional teams from the three nations against each other. In addition it was decided to hold an annual Tri-Nations Test Series between the three countries. A significant reason for the development of the Super 12 was the threat to rugby union from rival football code rugby league: part of the business model for the Foxtel pay TV network in Australia was to attract subscribers by offering an exclusive product (such as rugby union) which could not be seen on free-to-air broadcast television. By setting up the Super 12, the Unions had a product that was in demand from viewers, enabling them to sell a 10 year contract for exclusive television rights to News Corp for US$ 555 million, giving them both coverage and financial support to kickstart the new competition.
With significant sponsorship, and rugby turning a professional sport in 1995, the Super 12 competition successfully kicked off in 1996 with five New Zealand franchises, four South African provinces and three domestic Australian teams competing. New Zealand's dominance of the competition began in the first year when the Auckland Blues won the inaugural competition defeating South African side the Natal Sharks 45 – 21 in a home final. The Blues would repeat the success of 1996 beating Australian side the ACT Brumbies 23 – 7 in the 1997 final.
The Blues then reached their third successive final in 1998 but went down to fellow countrymen the Canterbury Crusaders 13 – 20. This would mark the beginning of the Crusaders' three-year dominance as they went on to win the 1999 and 2000 finals over the Otago Highlanders and ACT Brumbies respectively. The 2001 season was the first in which no New Zealand franchise reached the final, being contested between the ACT Brumbies and Natal Sharks with the Brumbies convincing winners, with a 36 – 6 scoreline.
The Crusaders won their 4th final in 2002 and missed out on their 5th in 2003 with a four-point loss to fellow countrymen the Blues. In 2004 the Brumbies took revenge on their 2000 final loss to the Crusaders defeating them 47 – 38 in front of a home crowd. The Crusaders would bounce back to win the 2005 final 35 – 25 against the Australian side the New South Wales Waratahs who reached their first ever final. This was the last year of the 12 team format.
From the early 2000s Australia had started to push for the inclusion of a fourth Australian team, and South Africa for another team from its country. There was also speculation of including a team from the South Pacific Island nations, such as Fiji; or a combined Pacific Islanders team from Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga. Argentina was also pushing for inclusion in the Super 12. In the early 2000s the provincial names from the New Zealand franchises were dropped. So the Canterbury Crusaders become the simply The Crusaders. Also South Africa followed the New Zealand franchise model, where previously South African participation was decided by the previous year's Currie Cup placings.
In September 2004, SANZAR began negotiations for a new television deal to take effect in 2006. That December, SANZAR announced that a new TV deal had been signed, with News Corporation winning the rights for the UK, Australia and New Zealand and Supersport winning rights for South Africa. The contract is worth USD 323 million over five years, which is a 16% annual increase compared to the previous deal. It covers international fixtures as well as the Super 14. SANZAR remained free to negotiate separate deals for other markets, such as France, Japan and the Americas.
The TriNations is the "cash cow" for the SANZAR partners as it provides nearly 60 per cent of the money from News Ltd. The Super 14 made up about 30 per cent of the deal.
Under the new deal, Australia and South Africa each got one extra team in the competition, and a third round of fixtures was added to the Tri Nations Series. The proposal also included the possibility of splitting the updated Super 14 into two seven-team divisions, but it was decided to keep the competition in its traditional single-table format. However, Argentina and the Pacific Islands remain shut out of the competition under this proposal.
It was confirmed in 2005 that the new Australian team in the competition would be based in Perth and was named the Western Force. The addition of the new South African team led to considerable controversy, including government involvement. Finally, the five teams for 2006 were confirmed to be the country's existing four teams, plus the Central Cheetahs, which draws its players from the Free State and Northern Cape Provinces.
The Cats (now the Lions) playing the Sharks.
The two new teams didn't perform all that well, the South African franchise the Cheetahs did the better of the two teams finishing 10th on the ladder notching up 5 season wins. The Australian franchise the Western Force only managed one victory and ended winning the wooden spoon as last placed 14th. The highlight for the Force was a 23-all draw against eventual champions the Crusaders, who defeated first-time finalists the Hurricanes 19 – 12.
For the 2007 season, 22 All Blacks missed the competition's first seven rounds as part of an All Black "conditioning programme". The conditioning programme was a part of the All Blacks' 2007 Rugby World Cup preparations, and every New Zealand franchise was without players for the first seven rounds. At the end of the regular season, for the first time since 1998, no Australian franchise had made the semi-finals. Although the Brumbies were strong and the Western Force experienced vast improvement it was a poor season for the Queensland Reds and Waratahs who finished last and second last respectively. Also, it was known before the final that the competition would be won for the first time ever by a South African team, as the Sharks and Bulls, who finished 1–2 on the season ladder, both won their respective semifinals. The final, held in Durban, saw the visiting Bulls win 20–19.
Super 14 Past Title Winners
2006 Crusaders [New Zealand]
2007 Bulls [South Africa]
2008 Crusaders [New Zealand]
2009 Bulls [South Africa]
2010 Bulls [South Africa]
THE 2011/12 season marks the start of a new era for the LV= Cup.
Following an exciting two years, LV= has signed as title sponsor for a further four years and in conjunction with Rugby Football Union, Welsh Rugby Union and Premiership Rugby is re-launching the Cup for the new season.
The tournament will take on a fresh look and feel, including a new logo and the introduction of the inaugural LV= Cup Breakthrough Player of the Season Award to reflect its status as a prime development pathway for the stars of tomorrow.
LV= recognises the value the competition brings to Rugby Union by offering younger, up and coming players the opportunity to experience first-team action, allowing these players to develop their talents before going on to compete at the highest level.
ABOUT THE LV= CUP
Now in its third season, the LV= Cup is played between the 12 Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs and the four Welsh regions.
The competition derives from the RFU Senior Knockout Cup, which has been played since 1972 and has been previously called the John Player, Pilkington, Tetley’s Bitter, Powergen and EDF Energy cups.
In the 2010-11 LV= Cup final, Tom Voyce’s trophy- winning experience with London Wasps rubbed off on his Gloucester team- mates as the Cherry & Whites ensured five trophy- less years came to an end with a 34-7 victory over Newcastle Falcons.