A Brief History of the Rugby League World Cup: 1975-2000

Since its conception in 1954 and up until 1972, the Rugby League World Cup was played between the four rugby league playing test nations - France, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia - on six occasions, and the honours were split three each to Great Britain and Australia. However by 1975, the formula of gathering these four countries alone for a round robin tournament was at risk of becoming stale, with crowd attendance unduly tied to the success or otherwise of the home team.

It was decided to change tack and hold a World Championship during 1975, with round robin matches to take place between March and November in both hemispheres and no Final to be played. Following a resurgence of interest in rugby league in Wales coupled with a victory over France in the European Championship, Wales were invited to be the fifth team competing in the tournament, meaning that an England team would take the place held by Great Britain in previous international series.

Every team played each of their opponents twice, and after a total of twenty matches the Australians finished top of the table and were proclaimed World Champions. Interestingly, Australia had not beaten England in the tournament, playing first a 10-all draw in a match in Sydney, and then losing 16-13 in a match at Wigan. The Welsh team acquitted themselves well for debutantes in finishing third on the table and winning three of their eight games - including a 12-7 win over England in Brisbane that effectively ended England