Rugby's two champion cups causing confusion

New Zealand organisers of the Rugby World Cup conceded that there are two Webb Ellis cups, and that the duplicate, made in 1986, was the one that recently toured the country to help promote the event.

John Key, the New Zealand prime minister, right, and Bil Beaumont, IRB deputy chairman, hold one of the Webb Ellis trophies. New Zealand world cup organisers admitted that there are two cups, one a duplicate.
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The captain of the team that wins the Rugby World Cup at New Zealand in October will hold aloft the Webb Ellis Cup.

But ... which trophy?

Organisers concede that two Webb Ellis Cups exist, the original trophy made in 1906 that was chosen for the inaugural World Cup in 1987, and a duplicate made in 1986, a year before the tournament.

Organisers say despite their age and provenance, the trophies are "of equal stature", and both have been handled by victorious captains over the past six World Cups.

However, after learning that the trophy which made a 27-stop tour of their country last month to boost support for the tournament may not have been the original, New Zealanders are not convinced.

More than 11,000 Kiwis lined up to be photographed with the Webb Ellis Cup during last month's Rugby World Cup Roadshow. Many are now disappointed to learn the trophy that toured New Zealand may have been a duplicate.

The original is housed at International Rugby Board headquarters in Ireland, where it is to undergo minor repairs.

Martin Snedden, the Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive, assured fans the trophy that toured the country will be the one that is held aloft by the victorious captain at Auckland's Eden Park after the October 23 final.

"The trophy that New Zealanders saw, and had their photos taken with, is the Webb Ellis Cup that will be presented to the winning team at the final of Rugby World Cup 2011," Snedden said. "We are pleased to be able to reassure all those fans who turned up early in the morning around the country that the experience they had was genuine."

Kit McConnell, the tournament director, said it was common practice for major international sports events, such as the football World Cup, to have two trophies.

"Both cups are equal in stature," he said. "They are interchangeable, and we don't distinguish between the two. They were both acquired before the first tournament and share the same Rugby World Cup history. Both have been used at past tournaments and both have been in the hands of winning captains and teams. They both represent the spirit of the game."

David Kirk, the captain of the New Zealand team which won the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987, said he hopes the trophy he received was the 1906 original, not a copy.

New Zealand, despite being the consistently the No 1-ranked team in the world, have not won the World Cup since Kirk's All Blacks won it on home soil in 1987.