The famous Webb Ellis Cup has made the trip to Apia, Samoa and will be on display for this weekend’s crucial Rugby World Cup 2019 qualifier match between Samoa and Fiji. The qualifier is the final match of the 2017 World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup tournament.
The cumulative results of the 2016 and 2017 Pacific Nations Cup (P.N.C.) will be used to determine two Oceania qualifying spots for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.
In 2016 Fiji won both of its P.N.C. matches to win the P.N.C. and last week Fiji beat Tonga 14-10 to secure the Oceania 1 R.W.C. qualifying spot. Samoa is one point behind Tonga going into the last match and their destiny is in their own hands.
In terms of the 2017 P.N.C. Tonga leads the tournament on five points after its two matches. Fiji has four points after its win last week and Samoa one after a narrow loss to Tonga two weeks ago, so there is also all to play for in the final P.N.C. match.
Rugby fans in Samoa will have a rare opportunity to get up close to the iconic trophy as it goes on display before and during the match in Apia. The trophy will also make appearances at various rugby clinics in the lead up to the match on the weekend.
Samoa Rugby Union Chief Executive Officer Vincent Faleomavaega is delighted the Cup will be in Apia for his team’s important match, “The Webb Ellis Cup is a huge symbol of our sport and we do not see it in the Pacific Islands very often. I urge all rugby supporters to come and see the Cup and be at the match on Saturday to support Manu Samoa.”
“To secure the Oceania 2 qualifying spot ahead of Tonga we have to be at our best and take the match to Fiji who have had some very good results over the last few weeks against Italy, Scotland and Tonga.”
“Manu Samoa desperately wants to put on a good performance in front of their home fans and qualify for R.W.C. 2019 by defeating Fiji this weekend,” Faleomavaega added.
Fiji will start favourites to secure victory and defend their Pacific Nations title but did not have it all their own way against Tonga last weekend. Samoa will have learnt from that match and will be keen to assert themselves and take the match to the visitors. A big crowd of ten thousand turned up to support Tonga last week in Nuku’alofa and a similar crowd is expected at Apia Stadium.
As Oceania 1 Fiji will be placed in Pool D in 2019 with Australia, Wales, Georgia and Americas 2. At the conclusion of the match in Apia, Samoa or Tonga will qualify as Oceania 2 for R.W.C. 2019 in Japan and will be placed in Pool C with England, France, Argentina and USA.
The third-place team, either Samoa or Tonga (Oceania 3) will play-off against the second placed team in the Rugby Europe qualifying process (Europe 2) for a place as fifth seed in Pool A with Ireland, Scotland, Japan and Europe 1. The loser of this play-off will go into the repechage tournament for the chance to win the final qualification position in Pool B, facing New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Africa 1.
The repechage will comprise Oceania 3 or Europe 2, Africa 2 and Americas 3, plus the winner of a two-match series between Oceania 4 (2017 Oceania Cup winner: Cook Islands or Tahiti) and Asia 1.
WEBB ELLIS CUP
Sometime at the beginning of 1987, a few months before the inaugural Rugby World Cup kicked off in Auckland and Sydney, the Webb Ellis Cup, a beautifully crafted piece of silverware, stood in the vaults of the Royal Jewelers, Garrard, in Regents Street, London.
The cup, made in 1906 by the Garrard silversmiths, was a reproduction of a trophy believed to have been made around 1740 by one of the leading artisans of the time Paul de Lamerie, a Huguenot silversmith.
Made of sterling silver, gilded in gold, the cup is adorned by a satyr head on one of the two cast scroll handles, while the other is decorated with a nymph head. The decorative pieces include a bearded mask, lion mask and vine.
The cup was selected by the Chairman of the Rugby World Cup 1987 organising committee, John Kendall-Carpenter, and his colleague, Bob Weighill, who was the Honorary Secretary of what was then known as the International Rugby Football Board. Both felt that a Victorian, not Georgian, piece of silverware would be appropriate. The craftsmanship of the period and the beauty of the trophy would have to project the past into the present.
The remaining members of the Rugby World Cup organising committee, Ronnie Dawson of Ireland, Keith Rowlands of Wales, Bob Stuart of New Zealand, Ross Turnbull of Australia and the RWC Directors, Dick Littlejohn of New Zealand and Nick Shehadie of Australia, all agreed that this was the cup that would become one of the iconic symbols of sport.
The committee decided that the cup should be named the Webb Ellis Cup after the Victorian schoolboy, William Webb Ellis who, legend has it, in a fine disregard for the rules of association football, picked up the ball and ran with it, thus creating the game of rugby.
The cup commenced its march towards legend on 23 May 1987 with the RWC opening match between New Zealand and Italy and acquired immortality on 20 June 1987 in Eden Park, when New Zealand captain David Kirk hoisted it in triumph above his head.
Since then, the trophy has travelled the world over. It has been touched by royalty and aboriginal bushmen, by Maori warriors and French farmers, by African children and Canadian Mounties.
It acquired personality and, more significantly, a symbolic value at the hands of winning captains and players. In 1995, it was given iconic status by the then president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who presented it to the winning captain, Francois Pienaar.
The cup stands at 472mm and weighs 4.5kg.
Information provided by Oceania Rugby.