A guide to the Webb Ellis Cup

(Other) Wednesday 14 March 2012
 
A guide to the Webb Ellis Cup
Richie McCaw became the latest captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup

Every major sporting tournament needs a serious bit of silverware for the winning side to hold aloft, and rugby is no exception. And, as befits a game with such history, heritage and values of fair play, not only does the Webb Ellis Cup shine like the sky's brightest star, it also has a fair old story to tell.

Here is everything you could possibly need to know about rugby's grandest prize, with an extra bit of Rugby World Cup trivia thrown in for good measure.

Vital statistics
Made from gilded silver, the Webb Ellis Cup stands 472mm tall, measures 319mm at its widest point handle to handle and weighs 4.5kgs. It was made in 1906 by the Garrards silversmiths and is based on the design of a cup believed to have been made around 1740 by English silversmith Paul de Lamerie.

The Webb Ellis Cup has two cast scroll handles. The head of a satyr (a faun-like creature) sits atop one handle while the head of a nymph adorns the other. The decorative pieces include a bearded mask, lion mask and vine. The words "The International Rugby Football Board" and "The Webb Ellis Cup" are engraved on its face.

William? Tell
William Webb Ellis, after whom the Cup is named, was an Anglican clergyman born in Salford, Lancashire. Legend has it that in 1823, while he was a pupil at Rugby School, Webb Ellis picked up the ball during a game of football and ran with it, thus inventing the game of rugby.

Captain Kirk
New Zealand's David Kirk was the first captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup after his All Blacks defeated France 29-9 in the RWC 1987 Final. Since then the trophy has been held aloft by Nick Farr-Jones (Australia, RWC 1991), Francois Pienaar (South Africa, RWC 1995), John Eales (Australia, RWC 1999), Martin Johnson (England, RWC 2003), John Smit (South Africa, RWC 2007) and Richie McCaw (New Zealand, RWC 2011). No country has ever successfully defended the title. In total, the winning captains have amassed 493 caps for their countries, with McCaw yet to retire.

Seasoned traveller
In its 25-year lifetime as the Rugby World Cup, the trophy has travelled the world over and been touched by Royalty and Aborigine Bushmen, by Maori warriors and French farmers, by African children and Canadian Mounties.

From its original home in London to the venue for the inaugural Final at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, is 11,406 miles. By the time it reaches Twickenham for the RWC 2015 Final, just from travelling between holders' capital cities to final host stadiums, the Cup will have covered more than 94,000 miles.

In reality, the Webb Ellis Cup has covered hundreds of thousands of miles with its presence at victory parades, exhibitions, sponsor activities and matches in the qualifying process. It will be in Mexico City for the first RWC 2015 qualifying match between Mexico and Jamaica on 24 March.

Penny, whistle
Not only does the Webb Ellis Cup carry a lot of history, there are two other antique artefacts that have become symbolic of the tournament: the Gil Evans whistle and the Freethy florin. The same whistle and coin have been used in the opening match of each tournament since Australian referee Bob Fordham took charge of the New Zealand v Italy contest that started the 1987 event. The whistle was first used at Crystal Palace in 1905 in the first clash between England and New Zealand, which the Kiwis won 15-0. The coin dates back to a 1925 meeting of the two teams.

No doubt there are many more tales still to be told in the life of the Webb Ellis Cup.