A Brief History of the Rugby League World Cup: 1954-1972

The Rugby League World Cup dates back to 1954, and was originally an initiative of the French Federation to get all four test playing rugby league nations together for a tournament. It is therefore much older than the Rugby Union equivalent, which was first played in 1987.

France were enjoying a period of international competitiveness following their 1951 tour of Australia where they won 21 of their 28 matches, and in proposing the tournament were keen to see international matches played on their own soil for the first time since before World War II. France and Great Britain went though the 1954 World Cup rounds undefeated, and the 13-all draw between the sides in their match at Toulouse meant that a Final match had to be hastily arranged to decide a winner. Great Britain were crowned the inaugural World Cup champions, after running out 26-12 winners in front of a crowd of over 30,000 in Paris. The initial World Cup was so successful that another tournament was organised and hosted by Australia in 1957, followed by another this time held in England in 1960. Both of these tournaments were played as round robins (without a Final) and on each occasion the home team topped the table and took out the title.

Plans for the next World Cup tournament in 1965 were delayed, following the unsuccessful 1964 French tour of Australia that led to fears a world tournament might be too lop-sided and not be the drawcard for fans that it had previously been. However France defeated the Australians in 1967, and so plans were then hatched to hold another Rugby League World Cup in 1968.

This time it was New Zealand