Rugby is said to have originated at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, in 1823 when during a game of football, William Webb Ellis decided to pick up a ball and go with it. Although there is very little evidence to support this theory, the Rugby World Cup Trophy is now named after William Webb Ellis.
In 1863 a collection of boarding schools and clubs decided upon a rule set and 1871 Rugby Football Union was officially formed. That same year, the first ever international match was played between England and Scotland with Scotland taking the win 1-0.
In 1900, rugby union was introduced to the Summer Olympics by Pierre de Coubertin, who had previously refereed the first French domestic championship as well as France's first international game. France, Germany and Great Britain all entered teams for the oplympics, and France won gold by defeating both opponents.
Rugby actually drew the largest crowd at that particular games - it was next played at the 1908 games in London, with Australia winning, by defeating Great Britain.
Even though rugby drew some of the biggest crowds at the games, it was eventually dropped in 1924.
By 1908 all three major Southern Hemisphere nations (New Zealand, Australia and South Africa) had formed teams and sent them on international trips to play against the Northern Hemisphere nations. As a side fact, the first time the Haka was performed by New Zealand prior to a match was in 1905, which the Welsh responded to by having Teddy Morgan sing the Welsh national anthem. Soon enough the crowd joined in, which was the first time a national anthem was sung prior to a sporting event.
England hosted the second world cup, losing to Australia in the final.
By the 3rd rugby world cup, South Africa were back from international exile, and were able to not only host the tournament, but also beat the All Blacks in the final. The tournament became a turning point for South Africa as well, as then President Nelson Mandela, was able to hand over the William Webb Ellis trophy, to Francois Pienaar, dressed in a Springbok jersey which had long been a symbol of apartheid.
This rugby world cup was hosted by France, however some matches were also played in Wales and Scotland. South Africa ended up claiming their second win, by defeating England in the finals.
The All Blacks hosted the 2011 rugby world, and claimed the William Webb Ellis trophy after a very close game, defeating France 8-7 in the finals.