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Rugby League World Cup

Rugby League World Cup
Current season or competition:
2013 Rugby League World Cup
The World Cup logo
Sport Rugby league football
Instituted 1954
Number of teams 17 (Finals)
Region International (RLIF)
Holders  Australia (2013)
Most titles  Australia (10 titles)

The Rugby League World Cup is an international women, students and other categories. The 2013 Rugby League World Cup was held in England, France, Ireland and Wales[4] and won by Australia.[5]


  • History 1
  • Trophy 2
    • Original and current trophy 2.1
    • Theft of original World Cup trophy and recovery 2.2
    • Past trophies 2.3
  • Format 3
    • 1954 to 1972 and 1977 format 3.1
    • 1975 to 1992 format 3.2
    • Qualification since 1995 3.3
  • Results 4
    • Successful national teams 4.1
  • Awards 5
  • Records and statistics 6
    • Overall Championships 6.1
    • Overall top pointscorers 6.2
    • Most appearances 6.3
    • World Cup winning captains and coaches 6.4
    • Attendance Records 6.5
  • See also 7
  • References 8
    • Inline 8.1
    • General 8.2
  • External links 9
  • Further reading 10


The Rugby League World Cup was an initiative of the French who had been campaigning for a competition since 1935. The idea was raised in 1951 by Paul Barrière, the President of the French Rugby League. In 1952, Rugby Football League secretary Bill Fallowfield persuaded the Rugby League Council to support the concept.[6] At a meeting in Blackpool, England in 1953, the International Board accepted Paul Barrière’s proposal that France should be the nation to host[6] the first tournament to be officially known as the "Rugby World Cup".[7] In addition to the hosts, the tournament featured teams from Britain, Australia and New Zealand.[8] The 1954 Rugby League World Cup was won by Great Britain who defeated France in Paris on 13 November to claim the title.

Captain of the winning British team, Dave Valentine presented with the trophy at the inaugural world cup in 1954

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 team that finished first in the league standings would be declared the winner 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 eight years. The competition had been scheduled to be held in France in 1965, this time with the inclusion of the South African team.[9] However after an unsuccessful tour of Australia, the French withdrew. The tournament was next held in 1968, and followed a two-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 a radical overhaul. It was decided to play matches on a home and away basis around the world instead of in any one host nation and the Great Britain team was split 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 was not 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 won again, defeating Great Britain 10-6 at Wembley Stadium in front of 73,361 people. This crowd remained a Rugby League World Cup record (and a record for any rugby league international match) until beaten by the 74,468 crowd who attended the 2013 World Cup Final at Old Trafford.[10]

In 1995, the competition was once again restructured and ten teams entered. New teams competing included Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and South Africa. Due to the Super League war, players aligned with the rebel competition were not selected by the ARL to represent the Kangaroos. This meant the absence of many star players from the Australian team's line-up. 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.

Following the Super League war, the subsequent re-structuring of rugby league's international governing bodies meant that the proposed 1998 World Cup was postponed.[11]

The 2000 World Cup expanded the field further with sixteen teams entering. Blown out score lines meant that this tournament was not as successful as the previous one. In the same year, the first Women's Rugby League World Cup was held.

In 2008, Australia hosted the tournament again and New Zealand became only the third team to win the World Cup.


Original and current trophy

The original World Cup trophy was commissioned by the French Fédération Française de Rugby à XIII president Paul Barrière at a cost of eight million francs and then donated to the International Rugby League Board to be used for the inaugural competition in 1954.[12] This trophy would be used and presented to the winning nation for the next four tournaments.

Theft of original World Cup trophy and recovery

The Midland Hotel, Bradford, whence the trophy was stolen in November 1970. It was not rediscovered for another 20 years.

While competing in the 1970 tournament, the reigning champions Australia put the trophy on display in the Midland Hotel, Bradford.[13] The trophy was stolen six days before the final, on the night of Sunday, November 1 1970, and remained unseen for the next twenty years.[13][14] Before its theft the trophy was last held aloft by Johnny Raper after Australia's 20-2 win over France at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 10 June 1968 to claim the fourth World Cup title.

However, the trophy was not the one which was due to be competed for and presented in the World Cup Final the following Saturday at Headingley, Leeds. With the commencement of sponsorship in the game, administrators had decided to play for a new sponsored trophy, whilst keeping the original safe and on display at the hotel in a symbolic capacity only.[15]

Nothing is known of the trophy's whereabouts for the next twenty years. In 1990, a Bradford resident discovered the trophy, minus the plinth, amongst rubbish dumped in a ditch near the Bradford and Bingley Rugby Club in Bingley.[13] Unaware of the significance of his find, he made enquiries at local rugby clubs without success. He turned the trophy in to the police but it was returned to him 28 days later after no-one claimed it. He tried contacting Yorkshire Television's Calendar programme but could not interest them in the story. There were plans for the cup to be turned into a body building trophy by a local gym.[16] He eventually contacted the local Telegraph & Argus newspaper who ran an article on it. The trophy was identified from this by rugby league historian Trevor Delaney who notified the police, the papers and the Rugby Football League.[15]

On 1 June 1990, the trophy was presented to Roger Millward of the RFL outside the White Rose Health club in Bradford before being taken to the RFL's headquarters in Leeds.[17] Speaking on its return, RFL spokesman David Howes commented, "It is like the return of the Holy Grail. No-one knows what its value is, but in rugby league terms it is priceless".[13] The RFL agreed to pay a reward for the trophy's return, "anything except a place in the team" Howes joked,[13] but the finder asked only for some match tickets.[13]

The original World Cup trophy was brought back into use for the 2000 World Cup minus the cockerel that had adorned it initially. It was presented to the victorious Australian team. The trophy featured again during the 2008 World Cup, when it was used prominently as the basis for the competition logo. It is likely this trophy will be retained for the 2013 competition and thereafter.

Past trophies

While no trophy could be presented in 1970 due to the original's disappearance a few days before the final, several other trophies were used from 1972 until 1995. For the 1995 tournament by a £10,000 cup was made by Tiffanys to celebrate the centenary of the game.[18]


The Rugby League World Cup has followed a varied range of formats throughout its history as the number of teams participating has increased.

1954 to 1972 and 1977 format

From 1954 until 1972 the World Cup competition had only featured four teams in Australia, France, Great Britain and New Zealand; because of this a current format of World Cup would have been impractical. Instead the RLIF adopted a league format with a points system, with all four teams playing each other. The two teams with the most points after the designated matches played off in a final to decide the champion. This style was re-introduced for the 1977 tournament.

1975 to 1992 format

For the 1975 tournament, a new format was introduced where no single country would host the world cup; rather each country playing in the tournament would host all home fixtures in their own country and play away in the country of their opposition. There was no final, with the team at the top of the points table being declared winner. This style of tournament saw a further three countries enter the cup under the league format; England, Papua New Guinea and Wales. The home and away style was dropped for 1977, but was used for a further two world cups in the eighties, (1985-88 and 1989-92) which saw the length of the series stretched from 8 months in 1975 to 3 years.

Qualification since 1995

Since the 1995 tournament the majority of teams have had to qualify for the World Cup tournament. There are 3 qualifying groups, European, Oceania and Pacific Islands and Atlantic. Teams start off playing in their respective group and attempt to qualify by. The remaining teams who are unsuccessful at qualifying in this fashion attempt to gain entry via the repêchage rounds of the World Cup qualifiers. groups of teams have been placed in a qualifying pool followed by a finals system. The top teams in each pool qualify into the next round.

In 1995, there were 10 teams split into one group of four, and two groups of three. The top two teams progressed in the group of four and the top team progressed from each of the groups of three into the semi-finals. The winners of the semi-finals progressed to the final. Moldova, Russia, USA, Cook Islands, Morocco, Ireland and Scotland competed in a parallel Emerging Nations World Cup.[19]

In 2000, sixteen teams were split into four groups of four. The top two teams from each group progressed to the knockout quarter finals. The winners of the quarter finals played in the semi-final and the winners of the semi-finals progressed to the final. The parallel Emerging Nations tournament was repeated with debuts from teams from Japan, Canada and Italy

The 2008 tournament followed a similar format to the 1995 competition. The 10 teams were split into one group of four, and two groups of three. Three teams progressed into the semi-finals in the group of four and the winners of the two groups of three went to a playoff for a position in the semi-final. The winners of the semi-finals progressed to the final. For the 2008 tournament five teams were granted automatic entry into the cup and therefore did not have to gain admission through the qualifying stages. These five teams included England and the original four that entered the World Cup between 1954 and 1992; Australia, France, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.

The 2013 edition saw an expansion to 14 teams, comprising two groups of four and two groups of three. As in 2008, due to the groups of four consisting of more higher seeded sides, three nations from each group of four qualified for the quarter-finals where they were joined by the two winners of the groups of three.

The host and format of the 2017 World Cup has not yet been decided. At the 2010 Rugby League International Federation executive meeting the New Zealand Rugby League made an early submission to co-host the 2017 tournament with Australia.[20]


Year Host Nation Winners Score Runner-up Attendance Final Venue
1954  France  United Kingdom 16–12  France 30,368 Parc des Princes, Paris
1957  Australia  Australia Table Leader  United Kingdom N/A N/A
1960  United Kingdom  United Kingdom Table Leader  Australia N/A N/A
1968  Australia/ New Zealand  Australia 20-2  France 54,290 Sydney Cricket Ground
1970  United Kingdom  Australia 12-7  United Kingdom 18,776 Headingley Carnegie Stadium
1972  France  United Kingdom 10-10*  Australia 4,500 Stade de Gerland, Lyon
1975 International  Australia 25-0  England 7,680 Headingley Carnegie Stadium
1977  Australia/ New Zealand  Australia 13-12  United Kingdom 24,457 Sydney Cricket Ground
1985-1988 International  Australia 25-12  New Zealand 47,363 Eden Park, Auckland
1989-1992 International  Australia 10-6  England 73,631 Wembley Stadium, London
1995  United Kingdom  Australia 16-8  England 66,540 Wembley Stadium, London
2000  United Kingdom/ France  Australia 40-12  New Zealand 44,329 Old Trafford, Manchester
2008  Australia  New Zealand 34-20  Australia 50,559 Lang Park, Brisbane
2013  England/ Wales  Australia 34-2  New Zealand 74,468 Old Trafford, Manchester
2017  Australia/ New Zealand TBC
  • (*- Highest ranked team won)

Successful national teams

Australia, France and New Zealand are the only nations who have appeared at every Rugby League World Cup from 1954 to 2008. England has also been at all, but participated under the banner of Great Britain in the majority of the earlier tournaments. Wales, including as Great Britain, has competed in all but the 2008 tournament.

Rugby league world cup countries prior to 2013 tournament

Up to and including the 2013 tournament only Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain have been crowned World Cup champions with Australia easily the most successful winning ten of the fourteen tournaments but many other nations have performed well in the tournament since its inception nearly sixty years ago. New Zealand have finished runners-up in three World Cups, while France have been runners-up on two occasions including the inaugural cup where they were captained by Puig Aubert, England have also finished runners-up on two occasions while the Great Britain team were runners-up four times.

Ireland and Wales have twice made it past the qualifying pool stages. Other nations to have proceeded to the knock-out stages in one tournament are Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Samoa.

The United States and Italy competed in their first World Cup in 2013 after successfully qualifying in 2011.

The following list, are all the teams that have competed in a World Cup tournament since its inception; the number of times they have appeared; their most recent appearance; consecutive appearances and their highest result:
Nation Number of appearances First appearance Most recent appearance Most consecutive cups Best result
 Australia 14 1954 2013 14 Champion, 1957; 1968; 1970; 1975; 1977; 1988; 1992; 1995; 2000; 2013
 Great Britain 9 1954 1992 6 Champion, 1954; 1960; 1972
 New Zealand 14 1954 2013 14 Champion, 2008
 France 14 1954 2013 14 Runner-up, 1954; 1968;
 England 5 1975 2013 4 Runner-up, 1975; 1995
 Wales 4 1975 2013 3 Semi-finalist, 1995; 2000
 Fiji 4 1995 2013 4 Semi-finalist, 2008; 2013
Ireland 3 2000 2013 3 Quarter-finalist, 2000; 2008
 Samoa 4 1995 2013 4 Quarter-finalist, 2000; 2013
 Papua New Guinea 5 1988 2013 5 Quarter-finalist, 2000
 Scotland 3 2000 2013 3 Quarter-finalist, 2013
 United States 1 2013 2013 1 Quarter-finalist, 2013
 Tonga 4 1995 2013 4 Two wins, 2008; 2013
 Italy 1 2013 2013 1 One win, One draw, 2013
 Aotearoa Māori 1 2000 2000 1 One win, 2000
 Cook Islands 2 2000 2013 2 One win, 2013
 South Africa 2 1995 2000 2 No games won
 Lebanon 1 2000 2000 1 No games won
 Russia 1 2000 2000 1 No games won


The top point scorer for each tournament is recognised with an official award by the Rugby League International Federation. In the début tournament the highest point scorer was the France national rugby league team's Puig Aubert.

Records and statistics

Overall Championships

Championships Nation
10 Australia
3 Great Britain
1 New Zealand

Overall top pointscorers

Points Scorers
112 Mick Cronin
108 Michael O'Connor
94 George Fairbairn

Most appearances

Appearances Individual
25 Kurt Sorenson
17 / John Atkinson; Bob Fulton
15 Mal Meninga; Michael O'Connor

World Cup winning captains and coaches

Year Captain Coach Team
1954 Dave Valentine G. Shaw
1957 Dick Poole Dick Poole
1960 Eric Ashton Bill Fallowfield
1968 Johnny Raper Harry Bath
1970 Ron Coote Harry Bath
1972 Clive Sullivan Jim Challinor
1975 Graeme Langlands Graeme Langlands
1977 Arthur Beetson Terry Fearnley
1988 Wally Lewis Don Furner
1992 Mal Meninga Bob Fulton
1995 Brad Fittler Bob Fulton
2000 Brad Fittler Chris Anderson
2008 Nathan Cayless Stephen Kearney
2013 Cameron Smith Tim Sheens

Attendance Records

Top 5 match attendances.
Attendance Venue Date Result Event
74,468 Old Trafford 30 November 2013 Australia def. New Zealand 34-2 2013 Rugby League World Cup Final
73,631 Wembley Stadium (1923) 24 October 1992 Australia def. Great Britain 10-6 1992 Rugby League World Cup Final
67,575 Wembley Stadium 23 November 2013 New Zealand def. England 20-18
Australia def. Fiji 64-0
2013 Rugby League World Cup - Semi Finals (double header)
66,540 Wembley Stadium (1923) 28 October 1995 Australia def. England 16-8 1995 Rugby League World Cup Final
54,290 Sydney Cricket Ground 10 June 1968 Australia def. France 20-2 1968 Rugby League World Cup Final

See also



  1. ^ Folkard, 2003: 337
  2. ^ Richard William Cox, Wray Vamplew, Grant Jarvie (2000). Encyclopedia of British Sport. UK: ABC-CLIO. p. 426. 
  3. ^ McCann, Liam (2006). Rugby: Facts, Figures and Fun. UK: AAPPL Artists' and Photographers' Press. p. 80. 
  4. ^ "Hosts announced for the 2013 RLWC". The Rugby Football League. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  5. ^ Fletcher, Paul. "Rugby League World Cup 2013: New Zealand 2-34 Australia". BBC Sport. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Waddingham, Steve (2008-06-14). "Why this trophy for winning the rugby league World Cup?". Brisbane:  
  7. ^ SPARC, 2009: 28
  8. ^ AAP (1953-01-19). "World Cup Suggestion". The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). p. 7. Retrieved 2009-12-25. 
  9. ^ AAP; Reuter (1962-08-15). "League Cup Year Fixed".  
  10. ^ AAP (1 December 2013). "Record rugby league crowd for World Cup final". Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  11. ^ John Coffey, Bernie Wood (2008). 100 years: Māori rugby league, 1908-2008. Huia Publishers. p. 302.  
  12. ^ RLIF. "Past Winners: 1954". Rugby League International Federation. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f "Trophy back home - after 20 years".  
  14. ^ Harlow, Phil (2008-10-21). "Rugby League World Cup history".  
  15. ^ a b "League Freak- Rugby League History - The Rugby League World Cup". The First Rugby World Cup,January 25, 2007 02:37:29. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  16. ^ Laybourn, Ian. "World Cup History". Sporting Life, rugby league news. 365 Media Group Ltd. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  17. ^ "Rugby League World Cup". RLWC Trophy. Rugby League International Federation Ltd. 
  18. ^ "A history of the Rugby League World Cup".  
  19. ^ "Rugby League World Cup History". Rugby League World Cup 2013 official website. Rugby League International Federation Ltd. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  20. ^ Kilgallon, Steve (1 August 2010). "NZ prepares bid to co-host 2017 World Cup".  


  • Folkard, Claire (2003). Guinness World Records 2003. Bantam Books.  
  • McCann, Liam (2006). Rugby: Facts, Figures and Fun. AAPPL.  
  • Independent Review Committee (February 2009). "Rugby League - Contributing to New Zealand's Future". New Zealand:  
  • (February 23, 2010). "20 TEAMS TO VIE FOR WORLD CUP GLORY IN 2013". [International Rugby League]. 

External links

  • Official Rugby League World Cup Website
  • Rugby League International Federation
  • BBC website, History (1954–2000) retrieved 2 May 2006
  • "RLIF Meeting", 2008 World Cup European Rugby League Federation, retrieved May 8, 2006
  • "Kiwi hangover after the hype", 2013 World Cup retrieved 8 May 2006
  • Rugby League World Cup at

Further reading

  • Andrews, Malcolm & Butcher, Tim (2009). The Rugby League World Cup. League Publications. 
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