Tournaments in rugby take all shapes and forms but players want to win them all.
The competitive rugby season in the runs from September to May and includes a number of international and club tournaments. Friendly matches and junior tournaments usually take place in the summer months.
Held every 4 years, the international tournament brings together the best 20 rugby nations to contest for the William Webb-Ellis trophy and the title of World Champions.
The International Rugby Board (now called World Rugby) organised the first Rugby World Cup in 1987 and the opening tournament was won by the All Blacks. It would take another 24 years for the dominant force in world rugby New Zealand to repeat the victory when Richie McCaw lifted the trophy on home soil in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The Women’s World Cup first held in 1991 is helping to raise the profile of the women’s game.
Northern Hemisphere and European Tournaments
The oldest tournament in the sport, the Six Nations was first played as the’ Home Nations Championship’ between England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. France joined in 1910 and the Five Nations Championship was born. In 2000 the Italy Rugby Team joined the party and the Six Nations Championship came into being.
The winner of the Six Nations tournaments can claim the title of European Champions.
The English Premiership of Rugby sees 12 teams compete over 22 rounds. A place in the top 4 gives those teams the chance to fight for the title in the play-offs and claim the ultimate prize at Twickenham. The tier below is known as the Championship and the winner of the play-offs gets promotion to the Premiership.
The Pro 12 league, or Celtic League as it was known takes in the best rugby teams from Scottish, Irish, Welsh and Italian teams.
Featuring 24 club sides from all of the Six Nations countries, the Heineken Cup was one of the most prized titles in rugby. In 2014 it was replaced by the European Rugby Champions Cup.
English and Welsh Rugby Teams contest the LV Cup and it is noted as a tournament which helps develop young players.
Amlin Challenge Cup
The European Challenge Cup features teams from the Home Nations, Italy, Romania on a pool, and then knock-out, basis. As with the Heineken Cup, qualification for the tournament was changed in 2014 as was the name ‘European Rugby Challenge Cup’.
South Hemisphere Tournaments
The Rugby Championship
Played between the powerhouses of world rugby, the All Black’s of New Zealand, Wallabies of Australia and Springboks of South Africa it is known for its fast flowing rugby. From 2012 the tournament became The Rugby Championship and was extended to include Argentina.
The club tournament also takes in the SANZAR countries top teams. Five South African, Australian and New Zealand rugby teams compete in a conference format. There are rumours that expansion could take in new nations such as Argentina and USA to grow the game globally.
Rugby Sevens Tournaments
The HSBC Sevens takes in cities around the world and features 12 core teams. The format of rugby games means that new Nations can shine such as Samoa, Kenya and USA Rugby. The USA Sevens round which takes place in Vegas in February is now the biggest rugby tournament in the US.
Sevens has been a Commonwealth Game sport since 1998 and from 2016, Rugby Sevens will be an Olympic sport with the top 12 qualifying teams competing for gold.