Stamp collecting guide - Rugby World Cup and Rugby Union on stamps


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05 August 2015
imports_CCGB_gbstampcelebratingthe_11775.jpg GB stamp celebrating the 1991 Rugby World Cup
Alastair Gunn presents a stamp collecting guide to rugby stamps ahead of the Rugby Union World Cup, which is to be held in the UK in September ...

Alastair Gunn presents a guide to rugby stamps ahead of the Rugby Union World Cup, which is to be held in England in September

The eighth Rugby Union World Cup is upon us, whether we like it or not.

Technically this is the first time England has solely hosted the event; in 1991 it co-hosted with Wales, France, Ireland and Scotland.

The Rugby World Cup is perhaps the third largest sporting event in the world after the Football World Cup and the Olympics but one must admit the Rugby audience, although huge, is limited to the handful of major rugby countries with a more token interest found elsewhere.

Year - Host Nation(s); Winner; Second

• 1987; Australia / New Zealand; 1. New Zealand; 2. France
• 1991; England / Wales / France / Ireland / Scotland; 1. Australia; 2. England
• 1995; South Africa; 1. South Africa; 2. New Zealand
• 1999; Wales; 1. Australia; 2. France
• 2003; Australia; 1. England; 2. Australia
• 2007; France; 1. South Africa; 2. England
• 2011; New Zealand; 1. New Zealand; 2. France.

The results are worth considering – the northern hemisphere has won the competition just once, and that was by England, way back in 2003. Overall England has been in the semi-finals or better four times, Wales two times, Scotland once and Ireland has never made it. Will this fairly unimpressive run of results continue? We shall soon find out.

The 1980 Welsh Rugby Union stamp on PHQ card; a large variety of Centenary covers were issued by the Welsh Rugby Board
But how has Rugby Union been philatically celebrated?

Royal Mail has treated the sport rather poorly, a solitary 1971 stamp was issued for its centenary which provides an interesting comparison with the set of five issued for Rugby League’s centenary in 1995. A stamp to celebrate the Welsh Rugby Union Centenary was also issued on 10 October 1980. A wheelchair rugby stamp was issued 27 July 2011 as part of the Olympics series.

The Rugby Union World Cup was graced by Royal Mail (before 2015) with a single 37p stamp on 11 June 1991. 

For the 1999 World Cup an illustrated panel was attached to a booklet of four first Class stamps (issued 1 October 1999). Then, for the 2003 English victory, an attractive minisheet was issued in December of that year. (The catalogue does not give values for used minisheet single stamps. The 68p stamp from this minisheet was, I know, appreciated by non-philatelists – but Rugby lovers - who had friends in Australia as it paid the airmail rate to that country…)

Many other countries have also released stamps for holding the World Cup and winning the tournament. The first World Cup, though, was ignored by the participating countries but was recognised by some African Francophone countries.

Before the new Rugby World Cup stamps to be issued in September 2015 (previewed in the October 2-15 issue of Stamp & Coin Mart), Royal Mail has issued just seven Rugby Union stamps, that’s less than a normal set issued today commemorating any minor children’s novelist, random insect, animal or landscape. Even when added together the number of rugby stamps is paltry.

And consider what is shown on these Royal Mail stamps; it’s basically just adult males illustrated for historic purposes, namely centenaries and World Cups. Other countries have dealt with Rugby and the Rugby World Cup in more attractive ways.

New Zealand, for example, has issued Rugby stamps from a very early time and these can show normal people actually playing rugby – and this includes children and women. Now that’s different. For them rugby is not merely about historic events – it’s also about active participation.

The first Rugby Union World Cup in 1987 was ignored by the main rugby countries, but some Francophone countries commemorated the event, including Gabon.

The stamps issued by New Zealand for the second 1991 World Cup included one celebrating Women’s Rugby which is a change from the normal male dominated stamps. It builds on the New Zealand 1967 stamps showing boys playing rugby.

Postal use of any Rugby World Cup stamps is hard to find; shown is a January 1996 cover from Capetown, South Africa, using a Rugby World Cup 1995 stamp paying airmail rate to the UK.

It’s not just stamps; Romania was a participant in the World Cup finals in 1999 and a variety of illustrations and cancels are known. This 9.10.1999 envelope celebrates the England-New Zealand game.

The 2003 Rugby World Cup was celebrated by Australia with three stamps, these stamps also constituted the minisheet

Over the years a variety of countries whose Rugby links are marginal have issued Rugby World Cup stamps; the above 2007 minisheet from Guinea-Bissau is an example.

The French stamps for the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand unusually did not just show Rugby Union images but also had attractive landscape images.

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