by Les Kendall
1999 saw the end of the millennium and the World wondered if the end of the 20th century would bring chaos due the ‘millennium bug’ which threatened to wipe out most of the computers on the planet. Of course, it didn’t happen.
Time passed under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair in the UK and President Bill Clinton in the USA. But Wales was in for a big treat – it was hosting the Rugby World Cup..
The Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup is held every four year and in 1999 it was the turn for Wales to be the hosts. A new stadium was built in Cardiff, aptly named the Millennium Stadium, with a capacity of 74,500.
Although Wales was the host nation, most matches were actually played outside Wales at various grounds in England, Scotland, Ireland and France. The opening game and the final would be played at Cardiff.
The 1999 tournament was the fourth World Rugby Cup and the first of the ‘professional era’. 20 nations would complete for the Webb Ellis Cup, named after the Reverend William Webb Ellis (1806-1872) who invented Rugby in 1823 when it was said he picked up a football and ran with it during a football match at his school in Rugby (Warwickshire UK), although this story is often disputed.
As hosts, Wales played the first game on 1st October 1999 against Argentina. Wales didn’t disappoint their fans and won the game 23-18.
A series of group matches followed and the quarter finals were held on the 23/24 October 1999 when South Africa beat England 44-21, Australia beat Wales 24-9, New Zealand beat Scotland 30-18 and France beat Argentina 47-26.
A Week later in the semi-finals Australia beat South Africa 27-21 (after extra time) and France beat New Zealand 43-21. South Africa would later claim the third place playoff with a 22-18 win over New Zealand.
The final was help on the 6th November at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and a packed crowd watched Australia have a comfortable 35-12 win over France. The cup was presented to the Australian captain John Eales by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
It was a very successful tournament with a total ground attendance of 1.75 million and watched on television by over 3 billion viewers in 209 countries.
1999 Two-Pound Coin
A major event of this magnitude didn’t go unnoticed by the Royal Mint – especially as they are just a few miles away. They decided on a variation of the bi-metallic £2 coin which had been recently introduced into circulation.
The reverse shows a stadium which is superimposed by a rugby ball and goalposts. The words ‘TWO POUNDS’ and ‘1999’ are on the coin. The reverse was designed by Ron Dutton. Queen Elizabeth II’s fourth portrait is on the obverse, designed by Ian Rank-Broadley.
The coin weighs 12 g with a diameter of 28.4 mm and thickness of 2.5 mm. Edge is milled, with incuse lettering; the edge inscription reads ‘RUGBY WORLD CUP 1999’.
The coin is bi-metallic with an outer ring of Nickel-brass (76% Copper, 20% Zinc and 4% Nickel) and a centre of Cupro-nickel (75% Copper , 25% Nickel).
The issue as 4,933,000 so you could usually find one in your pocket change, but there was a presentation folder for those that wanted it.
Other Variants of the 1999 £2
There are proof versions of the Rugby World Cup £2 but these were generally in the 1999 proof year set.
A silver proof was minted and 9,665 were issued.
A Piedfort (double thickness) silver proof with a coloured hologram on the reverse was issued (10,000).
A gold two pounds piece also commemorated the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Only 311 gold proof ‘Rugby’ two pounds pieces were issued by the Royal Mint in 1999 so it is quite collectable.
Using the same design by Ron Dutton, the reverse depicts a rugby ball and goal posts in the centre surrounded by a stylised stadium with the denomination ‘TWO POUNDS’ and the date ‘1999’. The edge inscription reads ‘RUGBY WORLD CUP 1999’.
Queen Elizabeth II’s fourth portrait can be seen on the obverse, designed by Ian Rank-Broadley.
The two pounds piece is made of solid 22 carat gold (Gold Fineness of 0.916), and weighs 15.98 grams. It has a diameter of 28.40 mm.
The outer disc is made of ‘red’ gold, with the inner disc being ‘yellow’ gold.
The coin was housed originally in its Royal Mint acrylic screw top capsule, presented in its Royal Mint green leatherette case, accompanied with an individually numbered certificate of authenticity.
The Rugby World Cup design is one of the most popular two-pound coins for collectors.
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