Rugby League World Cup History

The Rugby League World Cup sprang from French initiatives, who, had since 1935 been campaigning for a Rugby League World Cup. In January 1952 the idea gained momentum. At a meeting held in Blackpool, England, November 1953, the International Board accepted Paul Barrie’s proposal that France should be the nation to host the inaugural Rugby League World Cup.

The World Cup was initially contested by the four Test nations: Australia, Great Britain, France and New Zealand). The teams played each other in a league format. After a final was played between the top two teams in 1954, it was decided that the top team that finished first would win first for the second World Cup in Australia in 1957. Australia proved victorious on their home ground.

After the successful 1960 competition, in which Great Britain won the title for the second time, there would be no further World Cup for 8 years. The competition had be scheduled to be held in France in 1965, but after an unsuccessful tour of Australia, the French withdrew. The tournament was next held in 1968, and followed a 2 year cycle until the mid-1970s. The 1972 World Cup final ended in a 10-all draw, and the title was awarded to Great Britain by virtue of their superior record in the qualifiers.

In 1975 the competition underwent its most radical overhaul to date. It was decided to play matches on a home and away basis around the world, instead of in any one host nation. Furthermore, the Great Britain team was spilt into England and Wales. Australia won that tournament, and in 1977 it was decided that Great Britain should once more compete as a single entity. Although the final between Australia and Great Britain was a closely fought affair, public interest in the tournament waned due to the continuing tinkering with the format, and it would not be held again until the mid-1980s.

From 1985 to 1988, each nation played each other a number of times on a home and away basis. At the end of that period Australia met New Zealand at Eden Park. The match was a physical encounter, and Australian captain Wally Lewis played part of the match with a broken arm. The Kangaroos won the competition 25-12. This format was repeated from 1989-1992, and Australia defeated Great Britain 10-6 at Wembley Stadium in front of 72,000 people. This crowd remains a rugby league World Cup record.

In 1995 the competition was once again restructured, and the largest number of teams to date, 10, entered. New teams competing included Fiji, Tonga Samoa and South Africa. The tournament, which was also held to celebrate the centenary of the sport in England, was highly successful with over 250,000 people attending the group stages and over 66,000 people attending the final to see Australia defeat England 16-8 in the final.

The 2000 world cup expanded the field further, with 16 teams entering. Blown out scorelines ensured that this tournament was not as successful as the previous one. Ten teams are to compete in the next World Cup in Australia in 2008. It has also been announced that a further tournament will be held in Great Britain in 2012






United Kingdom




New Zealand 34 def. Australia 20


United Kingdom

Australia 40 def. New Zealand 12


United Kingdom

Australia 16 def. England 8


United Kingdom

Australia 10 def. Great Britain 6


New Zealand

Australia 25 def. New Zealand 12



Australia 13 def. Great Britain 12



Australia Win On League Basis



Great Britain 10 drew Australia 10


United Kingdom

Australia 12 def. Great Britain 7



Australia 20 def. France 2


United Kingdom

Great Britain Win On League Basis



Australia Win On League Basis



Great Britain 16 def. France 12