The best and worst-performing hosts in Rugby World Cup history: Where does France’s 2023 QF exit rank?

An incredible quarterfinal saw hosts France exit the 2023 Rugby World Cup at the quarterfinal stage. Although a huge disappointment for the Partisan crowd in Paris, it is still not the worst-ever host performance in RWC history.

The Springboks upset Les Bleus following an enthralling 29-28 victory on Sunday night. Four South African tries, plus a huge late penalty from Handre Pollard, sealed a win for the Webb Ellis Cup holders in an instant RWC classic.

As a result, France’s long wait to lift their first-ever Rugby World Cup will continue for another four years. Meanwhile, the Boks advance to the semis for a rematch of the 2019 Final with England.

French hearts and hopes may be shattered, but they can still take solace in not being the worst-performing hosts in Rugby World Cup history. They are, however, far from the best, too.

The best-performing hosts in Rugby World Cup history – New Zealand (1987, 2011) & South Africa (1995)

New Zealand must absolutely love hosting the Rugby World Cup. On the two occasions where the tournament has taken place in their country – 1987 and 2011 – the All Blacks have lifted the Webb Ellis Cup.

South Africa are the only other hosts to achieve this feat. In 1995, Ellis Park Stadium in South Africa saw the Springboks beat New Zealand 15-12, marking the second of three times where the host has won the RWC.

The worst-ever RWC hosts – England (2015)

Look away, England fans, this is going to dig up some brutal memories.

In 2015, England became the first outright Rugby World Cup hosts in history to fail to reach the quarterfinals. They suffered an unceremonious exit at the Pool stage of the 2015 tournament.

Fortune was not on the host’s side, sadly. England had Australia and Wales in their Pool, which meant that three of the top 5 sides in Rugby that year (according to the World rankings) were in a group together. This called into question the IRB’s draw process, as the Pools are picked three years before the tournament.

Still, with two wins and two losses, out crashed Stuart Lancaster’s side at the first hurdle. No other host nation had done as badly before, nor has done since.

HOWEVER: in 1991, the “5 Nations” teams – England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and France – jointly held the World Cup. Here, Wales actually exited at the Pool stage, too. But four out of the five hosts advanced to the knockouts, with England even reaching the final.

So, as a hosting unit, they went far. But yes, a co-host was eliminated from the Groups in 1991 – just not an outright host like England in 2015.

What about the other previous nations to hold a RWC?

Out of the 10 official Rugby World Cups, the other five hosts have all made at least the quarterfinals.

Wales (1999), Japan (2019), and France (2023) all went out during the last eight. Les Bleus’ 2023 performance is actually one step less than they managed in 2007. As hosts 16 years ago, France reached the semi-finals before losing to England in the last four.

Finally, in 2003, Australia reached the Final of their home tournament. Sadly (for the Wallabies), England defeated the hosts in the showpiece game.

And what about the rest of the 5 Nations hosts in 1991, I hear you ask? Well, as mentioned earlier, Wales went out in the groups. France and Ireland both exited the tournament at the quarter-final stage, with Scotland reaching the last four.

England beat Scotland in the 1991 semis, although they suffered defeat in the Final.

Despite being the only Northern hemisphere team to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, England’s shocking 2015 Pool stage exit makes them the worst-performing hosts in Rugby World Cup history. At the other end of the scale, New Zealand and South Africa are the best thanks to their wins on home soil.

Featured image credit: Getty