Rugby World Cup trophy – reason it’s named ‘Webb Ellis Cup’ and dons a pineapple

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The Rugby World Cup is poised to reach an exciting crescendo on Saturday night, with New Zealand intent on denying South Africa a second successive global title. England will be forced to watch on from afar after falling short in their semi-final against the Springboks.

The All Blacks had a comparatively simple route to Saturday’s showpiece event, thrashing Argentina 44-6. New Zealand and South Africa are the two most successful sides in the tournament’s history with three titles apiece.

In fact, the pair have alternated Rugby World Cup triumphs since England last got their hands on the trophy in 2003. With fans from around the globe set to tune in and watch the high-stakes showdown, the trophy itself is sure to pose one or two questions.

Here, Express Sport delves into why the coveted silverware is named ‘Webb Ellis’, and why, curiously, it is topped with a golden pineapple…

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Why is it called the Webb Ellis Cup?

Born in 1806, William Webb Ellis is credited by many as the inventor of the sport. While a pupil at Rugby School in Warwickshire, the story goes that he picked up the football during a match and started running with it.

Webb Ellis’ name therefore became ingrained in rugby folklore, making him synonymous with the sport’s most glamorous trophy. However, claims that he truly invented rugby in 1823 have been widely disputed.

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An investigation led by The Telegraph suggested that fellow student Jem Mackie was the true inventor around 15 years later, but because he had been expelled, a pupil instead credited Webb Ellis while writing for the school magazine. The former clergyman died in 1872, one year after the Rugby Football Union was formed.

Why is there a pineapple on the trophy?

Rugby and tennis share common ground in that their most-sought-after silverware is adorned with a pineapple. And as is the case in both sports, no official explanation has been provided.

But the general consensus is that pineapples were a thing of status and prestige when the cup was created back in 1906. The difficulty of growing pineapples in Europe, alongside the expense involved in importing them from South America, made them extremely hard to come by until the 20th century.

It is therefore likely that a pineapple was placed on top of the Webb Ellis Cup when it was made in London as a symbol of exclusivity and desirability.

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