Sun 13 Sep 2015 | 08:53

The Webb Ellis Cup

The Webb Ellis Cup
Sun 13 Sep 2015 | 08:53
The Webb Ellis Cup
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That is the name the handsome cup carries – the Webb Ellis Cup.

It is a bit of a misnomer. It is named after a clergyman, the Rev. William Ellis, who died in 1872, but was credited with starting the rugby game in 1823.

The crediting happened 68 years after Ellis left Rugby School and 23 years after he died.

There is no record of his having played the game, certainly not of being its founder. His middle name was Webb, his mother's maiden name, but his older brother was plain Thomas Ellis.

There was never an attempt to suggest that Ellis had a double-barrelled name in the way that John Kendall-Carpenter did, the man who chose the trophy and gave it its name.The Webb Ellis Cup

Kendall-Carpenter, the headmaster of an English public (= private) school was the chairman of the committee organising the 1987 World Cup.

He and Air Commodore Bob Weighill, also a former England forward, set out to find a trophy. They went to crown jewellers Garrard's of Regent Street, a company which began in 1722.  

Kendall-Carpenter explained what he was looking for: "I felt that a Victorian, not a Georgian trophy would be appropriate, made of silver – a masculine metal – rather than gold. The craftsmanship of the period and the beauty of the piece would have to project the past into the present."

And so it came to pass: "At Garrard's, I was told by Richard Jarvis, one of their directors, that they had re-acquired, that very day, a piece of silverware, a copy of a Victorian cup which was made in their own workshop in 1906. When they brought the cup from the vaults, I immediately knew I had found what I was looking for. It was heavy, it was compact, it was handsome."

The 38-centimetre trophy weighs 4,5 kg, is gilded silver and is supported by two cast scroll handles. On one handle there is a head satyr, on the other there is head of a nymph. On the face of the trophy, the words International Rugby Football Board and below that arch The Webb Ellis Cup are engraved.

The Webb Ellis Cup is also referred to (incorrectly) as the "Webb Ellis Trophy" or colloquially as "Bill", a nickname coined by the 1991 World Cup winners, the Wallabies.

There are two official Webb Ellis Cups, which are used interchangeably. One cup is a 1906 trophy made by Carrington and Co. of London, which was a Victorian design of a 1740 cup by Paul de Lamerie and the other is a 1986 replica.

New Zealand were the first winners and are the current holders.

Only four countries have taken possession of it – New Zealand (twice), Australia (twice), South Africa (twice) and England.

Winning that trophy has become the aim of national teams so that rugby, instead of annual seasons, now has seasons which last for four years and climax with the final round of the Rugby World Cup. All rugby eyes will be on Twickenham on 31 October 2015 – millions of eyes.

By Paul Dobson
@rugby365com

The Webb Ellis Cup

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