The biggest rivalries in Rugby Union are very unique. For one, unlike football, in international rugby there are dozens of different competitions and tests played all over the world in every corner imaginable. It’s this uniqueness that makes rugby union such an interesting and compelling sport to watch.
Every country has their own unique history and tradition surrounding the game which often leads to lots of ill feeling towards rival nations, especially when they come up against each other in a winner takes all test match. The following list looks at five of the biggest rugby union fixtures and why they matter:
The Four Nations:
This is the oldest rivalry in rugby with matches between Wales, Ireland and Scotland having been played since 1881, and of course the World’s first ever international rugby match, between Scotland and England in 1871. Games between the four countries were initially sporadic but increased as the sport grew in popularity leading to international tournaments such as The Home Nations becoming established. England won the first ever tournament which then traded between themselves and Scotland for the next decade, before Wales finally took the crown. What makes this four-way rivalry truly unique is that in over 120 years of competition, there has never been a truly dominant team in the quartet. Each has had its moments, but the rivalry has been as competitive as any other, in any sport.
Australia vs New Zealand:
Known as the Bledisloe Cup after Lord Bledisloe of Westminister, who donated the trophy in 1932, this is the rugby union equivalent of the Ashes. The two most successful teams in rugby history with New Zealand holding both more world titles and Rugby Championships than Australia, these two teams are consistently at each other’s throats when they meet up. Since 2000 New Zealand have won eleven games to Australia’s seven with two draws, which doesn’t make for good reading if you’re an Australian fan.
The reason this storied rivalry is so interesting though is because of the fact that these two countries are not only geographically close but also share a lot in common with their history and culture. This has meant that the two teams have often been compared to each other. Where one leads, the other tends to follow which has resulted in them not only playing very similarly but also becoming close rivals.
Ireland vs England:
This is one of the newer rivalries in rugby, but it has already seen some classic matches over the last twenty years. Perhaps most notable was England’s 21-13 victory in Dublin during their Grand Slam winning campaign in 2003. Irish fans will claim that they were robbed by not only decisions made by referee David McHugh, but also by England’s Mike Catt who was able to fool the referee into believing that a penalty had been taken when in fact it hadn’t.
As well as this, Ireland have often been seen by many English fans as being ‘cheats’ when it comes to rugby with some notable incidents during past games meaning they have a bit of a bad reputation.
South Africa vs New Zealand:
Although there are arguably the two greatest international sides in rugby union history, this rivalry is a lot more one sided than you’d think – with New Zealand winning 60 games to South Africa’s 37. However, this doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been some quality rugby because the two teams really do go at it when they play.
Australia vs England:
These two teams have been going at it since 1909 and is one of the most even rivalries in the sport, with Australia winning 25 to England’s 26. Perhaps it’s intensified due to the rivalry in cricket, and as nations in general, but this one only seems to get spicier with age.