Rugby League World Cup
Current season or competition:
2021 Rugby League World Cup
RLWC trophy.jpg
SportRugby league
Instituted1954
Number of teams16
RegionInternational (IRL)
Holders Australia (2017)
Most titles Australia (11 titles)
Websiterlwc2021.com
Related competitionWomen's World Cup
World Cup 9s
Festival of World Cups
Tournaments

The Rugby League World Cup is an international rugby league tournament contested by the top men's national teams. The tournament is administered by the International Rugby League and was first held in France in 1954, which was the first World Cup held for any form of rugby football.[1]

The idea of a rugby league World Cup tournament was first mooted in the 1930s with the French proposal to hold a tournament in 1931, and again in 1951.[2] The tournament's structure, frequency, and size has varied significantly throughout its history.[3] The winners are awarded the Paul Barrière Trophy, named after Paul Barrière, the French Rugby League President of the 1940s and 1950s. Three nations have won the tournament; Australia eleven times, Great Britain three times, and New Zealand once.

The IRL also holds World Cups for women, students and other categories.

History

Main article: History of the Rugby League World Cup

1935–1960: Establishment and Early World Cups

New Zealand, France, Great Britain, and Australia were the four nations to compete in the inaugural competition.
New Zealand, France, Great Britain, and Australia were the four nations to compete in the inaugural competition.

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.[4] At a meeting in Blackpool, England in 1953, the International Board accepted Paul Barrière's proposal that France should be the nation to host[4] the first tournament to be officially known as the "Rugby World Cup".[5] In addition to the hosts, the tournament featured teams from Britain, Australia and New Zealand.[6] The 1954 Rugby League World Cup was won by Great Britain who defeated France in Paris on 13 November to claim the title.

Following the success of the maiden World Cup three years later another tournament was held in Australia, marking 50 years of rugby league in the country. Unlike the previous tournament, teams played each other in a league format. It was then decided that the team that finished first in the league would be declared the winner. Australia proved victorious on their home ground.

Another three years would pass until the next World Cup in 1960, this time held in England. It would be the second time Great Britain won the competition. Despite a home nation victory the World Cup suffered from poor crowds due to the live broadcast of games for the first time.

1960-1974: Sporadic competitions

After a disappointing attendances in 1960, the World Cup would not be played for another eight years. The competition had been scheduled to be held in France in 1965, this time with the inclusion of the South African team.[7] However, after an unsuccessful tour of Australia, the French withdrew, effectively postponing the tournament until 1968, when Australia and New Zealand hosted and the World Cup Final made a return.

The World Cup found more success in the 70s with four tournaments being played. The first, the 1972 World Cup where the final was contested between Great Britain and Australia ended 10-all, and the title was awarded to Great Britain by virtue of their superior record in the qualifiers. Great Britain were captained by Welshman Clive Sullivan who was the first black player to captain any British national sports team. The final at the Stade de Gerland in Lyon witnessed what is (as of 2021) the last British team to win the Rugby League World Cup.[8]

1975–1990s: No host nations

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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 one host nation and the Great Britain team was split into England and Wales meaning that the tournament would be increased from the four teams of previous tournaments to five, this number also taking part in the two future internationally held tournaments. There was not a final held to decide the champions of the 1975 tournament and so Australia won by virtue of topping the group standings. As Australia had not beaten England in that tournament a 'final challenge match' was hastily arranged which Australia would win 25–0.

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 with a number of these games also being considered part of various international tours that took place during the years in which these world cups were being played. 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 in front of a capacity crowd of nearly 48,000 spectators.

This format was repeated from 1989 to 1992 (with games once again also being part of tours) 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 which attended the 2013 World Cup Final at Old Trafford.[9] The fifth nation to compete in these two tournaments was Papua New Guinea, where rugby league is the national, and most popular, sport.

1995–2008: Birth of the modern World Cup

New Zealand lifting the Paul Barrière Trophy after winning the 2008 tournament
New Zealand lifting the Paul Barrière Trophy after winning the 2008 tournament

In 1995, the competition was once again restructured, returning to the traditional 'host' format with ten teams entering. Unlike previous tournaments where the top two teams in the table playing in the final, a knockout stage was added with a quarter and semi final. 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 success of 95’ plans were drawn up to have a World Cup every three years rather than the sporadic staging of the competition in the past. However, the Super League war and the subsequent re-structuring of rugby league's international governing bodies meant that the proposed 1998 World Cup was postponed.[10]

It wouldn’t be until 2000 when the World Cup returned and expanded the field further, with sixteen teams entering. This tournament included a New Zealand Maori representative team, the only time this team has taken part. However numerous issues including poor organization and blown-out scorelines meant that this tournament was seen as highly unsuccessful with an average attendance just half that of the previous tournament. Due to these problems the competition was put on indefinite hiatus. Australia won the tournament by beating New Zealand 40–12 in the final at Old Trafford, Manchester. In the same year, the first Women's Rugby League World Cup was held with New Zealand defeating Great Britain.

After the failure of the 2000 World Cup no plans were made for another tournament until 2008 with the competition reverting to a 10-team format. Australia hosted the tournament and New Zealand were crowned champions for the first time by beating the host nation at Lang Park, Brisbane. The tournament was once again seen as a success with a 91% average attendance increase on the previous competition. New Zealand became only the third team to win the world cup and the first other than Australia since 1972.

2009–present: Regular competition

Five years on from the 2008 World Cup there was still an appetite for a regular World Cup.2013 saw England and Wales host the tournament and expanded to 14 teams. This was considered the most successful competition since 1995 in terms of attendances, exposure and financial output. Australia took the title again after defeating New Zealand in the final by a score of 34–2. The final attendance became the record international rugby league attendance at 74,468.

Following the success of the 2013 tournament, it was decided that the World Cup would be scheduled to take place every four years, 2017 Rugby League World Cup taking place in Australia, New Zealand and for the first time in Papua New Guinea. While Australia would claim the title once again and for an eleventh time, the tournament was considered highly successful in terms of competitiveness. The tournament would see Tonga beat New Zealand in the group stages with a score of 28–22 to top the group, the first time a team from outside the top 3 had beaten a top 3 nation in over two decades. New Zealand went on to play Fiji in the quarter-finals and lost once again with a score of just 4–2, knocking New Zealand out in the quarter-finals, the first time a tier 1 nation had exited the tournament at this early stage. Tonga played England in the semi-finals and while conceding 20 unanswered points, they would score 3 tries in just the last seven minutes to pull the score back to 20–18, eventually losing by this close margin. The final was contested between Australia and England at Lang Park, Brisbane and Australia won by just 6–0, the lowest score in world cup final history.[11]

England were chosen to host the 2021 tournament which was postponed to 2022 due to the Covid 19 pandemic, with organisers expressing a desire to see a total of one million fans attend games. This tournament will see the number of teams increased to 16 once again.

A proposal was put forward in 2016 to hold the 2025 Rugby League World Cup in the United States and Canada,[12] but in December 2018 plans for the tournament to be held in North America were scrapped due to financial concerns.[13]

On the 8 January 2022 it was announced France would host the tournament for the first time since the 1960s.

Trophy

Main article: Paul Barrière Trophy

The Paul Barrière Trophy first awarded in the 1954 inaugural contest.
The Paul Barrière Trophy first awarded in the 1954 inaugural contest.

The World Cup trophy was commissioned by 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.[14] This trophy was used and presented to the winning nation for the first four tournaments, before being stolen in 1970. After its recovery, the trophy was reinstated for the 2000 tournament.

Format

Qualification

Australia, France and New Zealand are the only nations who have appeared at every Rugby League World Cup from 1954 to 2017. 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.

In total, 19 teams have taken part in the World Cup. While 18 of these represented nations, 1 did not; in 2000, the Aotearoa Māori team was granted entry to the competition. This team is made up of New Zealand Māori players and was knocked out of the world cup in the pool stage. Only one other team has taken part in just a single world cup; Russia. In total 29 teams have/will taken part in qualifying rounds while five other teams have always been granted automatic qualification, meaning 34 teams have taken part in some stage of the world cup.

Qualifying rounds were first introduced for the 2000 World Cup. Rounds take the form of groups of teams from specific continents/regions; Europe, Africa/middle-east, Asia/pacific and the Americas. Teams that automatically qualify are the quarter-finalists from the previous world cup.

Qualifying for the 2021 World Cup featured 20 teams, the most to date with 8 teams having automatically qualified. 13 of these teams had never qualified for the World Cup before. 14 teams took part in the European stage of the qualifying with 4 teams in the Americas group and three in the world play-offs where the runner-up of the Americas group met the highest ranked teams from Asia/Pacific and Africa/Middle-East.

Finals

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

The current format has been in use since 2013 featuring 14 teams split into two groups of four and two groups of three. Three teams from the groups of four qualify for the knockout stage and one team from the groups of three qualify. Each team is awarded two points for a win and one point for a draw.

The eight teams in the quarter finals play each other with the four winners progressing to the semi finals before the World Cup Final. If the teams are level after 80 minutes extra time will be played and if the two teams are still level after extra time, a golden point will be played.

In 2017 the final tournament followed the same format as that of 2013 but this will change for 2021 when the number of teams taking part is increased to 16.

Year Teams Format
Round Robin era
1954 4 Australia
France
United Kingdom
New Zealand
[a]
  • Round Robin
  • Top two teams play in final
1957
  • Round Robin
  • No final
1960
1968
  • Round Robin
  • Top two teams play in final
1970
1972
1975 5
1977 4
1985–1988 5 Australia
France
United Kingdom
New Zealand
Papua New Guinea
1989–1992
Groups and Knockout era
1995 10 T
h
o
s
e

Q
u
a
l
i
f
i
e
d
  • Group Stages
    • Three groups
    • Top two advance from Group A, Group leader advances from Group B and C
  • Knockout stages
    • Semi Finals
    • Final
2000 16
  • Group Stages
    • Four groups
    • Top two from each advance
  • Knockout stages
    • Quarter Finals
    • Semi Finals
    • Final
2008 10
  • Group Stages
    • Three groups
    • Top three advance from Group A, Group leader advances from Group B and C
  • Knockout stages
    • Semi Final Play-off
    • Semi Finals
    • Final
2013 14
  • Group Stages
    • Four groups
    • Top three advance from Group A and B, Group leader advance from Group C and D
  • Knockout stages
    • Quarter Finals
    • Semi Finals
    • Final
2017
2021 16
  • Group Stages
    • Four groups
    • Top two from each advance
  • Knockout stages
    • Quarter Finals
    • Semi Finals
    • Final

Hosts

Main article: Rugby League World Cup hosts

Due to the early World Cups being contested between Australia, England, France and New Zealand and the fact rugby league is most popular in these regions they have regularly hosted the World Cup between themselves. World Cups in 1975, 1985-88 and 1989-92 were all jointly hosted by the four founding nations, although Papau New Guinea played home games in Papau New Guinea in 1985-88 and 1989-92.

New Zealand has never solely hosted a World Cup but they have co-hosted with Australia on three occasions with 2017 also jointly co-hosted with Papau New Guinea. England have co-hosted once with Wales in 2013 although the 2000 World Cup was played across the UK as well as some games in Ireland and France.

France hosted the first World Cup in 1954 and again in 1972 as well has unofficially hosting games at the 2000 and 2013 World Cups. They are due to host the 2025 World Cup.

Despite the World Cup mainly being hosted by England, Australia, France and New Zealand, countries such as UAE, South Africa and the USA and Canada have applied to host the tournament in the past.

Total times teams hosted by confederation
Confederation Total (Hosts) Years
Asia-Pacific 5 Australia1957, AustraliaNew Zealand 1968, AustraliaNew Zealand1977, Australia2008, AustraliaNew ZealandPapua New Guinea 2017
Europe 9 France1954, England1960, England1970, France1972,England1995, United Kingdom2000, EnglandWales2013, England2021, France2025
Middle East-Africa 0
Americas 0

Stadiums

Main article: Rugby League World Cup venues

In total, 81 stadiums have hosted world cup games over the 14 tournaments. Headingley Stadium in Leeds has hosted the tournament the most times, having had games in 7 world cups with Central Park, Wigan and Lang Park, Brisbane having hosted 6 tournaments. 52 stadiums have hosted matches in just 1 tournament. The most stadiums used in a tournament was in 2000 when 26 stadiums were used; the stadium capacity was the highest ever at 704,400. However, the occupancy was also the lowest ever at just 37.46%.

The largest stadium in terms of capacity ever used was Wembley Stadium, London with a seating capacity of 90,000; the stadium was used in the 2013 tournament as the venue for the semi-final double-header. The smallest stadium ever used was also in 2013 when The Gnoll, Neath, with a capacity of 5,000 hosted a game between Wales and Cook Islands. Despite this, it was not the lowest attended game; this was in the 2000 world cup when just 1,497 attended the game between Wales and Lebanon at Stradey Park, Llanelli.

The city with the most stadiums used is Sydney with 4. Hull and Auckland are the cities with the next highest number with 3 each.

Rank Country Stadiums
1  England 33
2  Australia 21
3  France 13
4  Wales 7
5  New Zealand 6
6 Ireland Ireland 3
7  Papua New Guinea 2
 Scotland 2

Results

Further information: Rugby League World Cup finals

Ed. Year Host Final Third place Num.
teams
1st place, gold medalist(s) Champion Score 2nd place, silver medalist(s) Runner-up 3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Third Fourth
1 1954  France
Great Britain
16–12
Parc des Princes, Paris

France

Australia

New Zealand
4
2 1957  Australia
Australia
N/A
Great Britain

New Zealand

France
4
3 1960  England
Great Britain
N/A
Australia

New Zealand

France
4
4 1968  Australia
 New Zealand

Australia
20–2
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney

France

Great Britain

New Zealand
4
5 1970  England
Australia
12–7
Headingley, Leeds

Great Britain

France

New Zealand
4
6 1972  France
Great Britain
10–10b
Stade de Gerland, Lyon

Australia

France

New Zealand
4
7 1975 No fixed hostd
Australia
25–0
Headingley, Leeds

England

Wales

New Zealand
5
8 1977  Australia
 New Zealand

Australia
13–12
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney

Great Britain

New Zealand

France
4
9 1985–88 No fixed hostd
Australia
25–12
Eden Park, Auckland

New Zealand

Great Britain

Papua New Guinea
5
10 1989–92 No fixed hostd
Australia
10–6
Wembley Stadium, London

Great Britain

France

New Zealand
5
Losing semi-finalists [n 1]
11 1995  England
Australia
16–8
Wembley Stadium, London

England
 New Zealand and  Wales 10
12 2000  United Kingdom
Australia
40–12
Old Trafford, Manchester

New Zealand
 England and  Wales 16
13 2008  Australia
New Zealand
34–20
Lang Park, Brisbane

Australia
 England and  Fiji 10
14 2013  England
 Wales

Australia
34–2
Old Trafford, Manchester

New Zealand
 England and  Fiji 14
15 2017  Australia
 New Zealand
 Papua New Guinea[15]

Australia
6–0
Lang Park, Brisbane

England
 Fiji and  Tonga 14
16 2021  England TBD
Old Trafford, Manchester
TBD TBD 16
17 2025  France To be decided 16
18 2029 TBA To be decided 16
Notes
a: Hosts are countries who officially hosted the tournament and not counting countries where a game was played outside the main host nation(s).
b: Highest ranked team during round-robin round won World Cup
c: 1972, 1985–88 and 1989-92 were all hosted by the nations participating in the tournament rather than a single host or several co-hosts.

Summary

Up to and including the 2017 tournament, only Australia, Great Britain, and New Zealand had been crowned world champions. Australia has been by far the most successful, finishing in the top three in all 15 tournaments and winning 11. Great Britain have won three times, and New Zealand once. New Zealand have also finished runners-up in three World Cups, while France have been runners-up twice, including the inaugural cup where they were captained by Puig Aubert. England have also finished runners-up three times, while the Great Britain team were runners-up four times. Fiji have reached the semi-finals three times, while Wales also made the semi-final in 1995 and 2000. Ireland and Samoa have twice made it past the qualifying pool stages. Other nations to have proceeded to the knock-out stages are Papua New Guinea, Scotland, the United States, and Lebanon.

Teams reaching the top four
Team Titles Runners-up Third place or Semi-finalist Fourth place or Quarter-finalist Top 4
Total
 Australia 11 (1957, 1968, 1970, 1975, 1977, 1985–88, 1989–92, 1995, 2000, 2013, 2017) 3 (1960, 1972, 2008) 1 (1957) 15
 Great Britain1 3 (1954, 1960, 1972) 4 (1957, 1970, 1977, 1989–92) 2 (1968, 1985-88) 9
 New Zealand 1 (2008) 3 (1985–88, 2000, 2013) 1 (1995) 6 (1968, 1970, 1972, 1975, 1989-92, 2017) 11
 England 3 (1975, 1995, 2017) 3 (2000, 2008, 2013) 6
 France 2 (1954, 1968) 3 (1970, 1972, 1989-92) 5 (1957, 1960, 1977, 2000, 2013) 10
 Fiji 3 (2008, 2013, 2017) 3
 Wales 3 (1975, 1995, 2000) 3
 Tonga 1 (2017) 1
 Papua New Guinea 3 (1985-88, 2000, 2017) 3
 Samoa 3 (2000, 2013, 2017) 3
 Ireland 2 (2000, 2008) 2
 Scotland 1 (2013) 1
 United States 1 (2013) 1
 Lebanon 1 (2017) 1

Attendance

Main article: Rugby League World Cup records

Tournament attendance

Year Matches Avg
attendance
Total
attendance
% change in average attendance Stadium
capacity (%)
Host(s)
1954 7 19,761 138,329 N/A 285,100 (48.51%) France
1957 6 35,820 214,918 Increase 81.26% 370,000 (58.08%) Australia
1960 6 18,376 110,200 Decrease 48.72% 217,000 (50.78%) England
1968 7 31,562 220,683 Increase 71.84% 350,000 (63.05%) Australia New Zealand
1970 7 9,816 68,710 Decrease 68.69% 181,200 (37.91%) England
1972 7 8,922 62,456 Decrease 9.10% 222,700 (28.04%) France
1975 21 9,737 204,476 Increase 9.13% 294,500 (69.43%) England Wales
France Australia New Zealand
1977 7 15,670 109,688 Increase 60.93% 274,000 (40.03%) Australia New Zealand
1985–88 18 12,125 218,246 Decrease 22.62% 456,000 (47.86%) England France
Australia New Zealand Papua New Guinea
1989–92 21 14,289 300,059 Increase 17.84% 521,500 (57.57%)
1995 15 17,707 265,609 Increase 23.92% 413,300 (64.26%) England
2000 31 8,514 263,921 Decrease 51.91% 704,400 (37.46%) England Republic of Ireland France Scotland Wales
2008 18 16,302 293,442 Increase 91.47% 533,800 (54.97%) Australia
2013 28 16,374 458,483 Increase 0.44% 573,200 (79.98%) England Wales Republic of Ireland France
2017 28 13,338 373,461 Decrease 18.54% 750,700 (49.75%) Australia New Zealand Papua New Guinea
2021 31 England

Match attendance

Top 10 match attendances.

Year Venue City Event Attendance
2013 Old Trafford England Manchester Final 74,468
1989–92 'Old' Wembley Stadium England London Final 73,631
2013 Wembley Stadium England London Semi Final (double header) 67,575
1995 'Old' Wembley Stadium England London Final 66,540
1968 Sydney Cricket Ground Australia Sydney Group Stage 62,256
1957 Sydney Cricket Ground Australia Sydney Group Stage 58,655
1968 Sydney Cricket Ground Australia Sydney Final 54,290
2008 Lang Park Australia Brisbane Final 50,599
1957 Sydney Cricket Ground Australia Sydney Group Stage 50,077
1985–88 Eden Park New Zealand Auckland Final 47,363

See also

Notes

  1. ^ In 1975, Great Britain split into England and Wales for a one-off tournament due to the influx of Welsh talent at the time. No Scottish player made the original Great Britain squad. Note: Following the tornement's 1995 restructure, Great Britain permanently split into England, Scotland, and Wales.

References

Inline

  1. ^ Folkard, 2003: 337
  2. ^ Richard William Cox; Wray Vamplew; Grant Jarvie (2000). Encyclopedia of British Sport. UK: ABC-CLIO. p. 426. ISBN 9781851093441.
  3. ^ McCann, Liam (2006). Rugby: Facts, Figures and Fun. UK: AAPPL Artists' and Photographers' Press. p. 80. ISBN 9781904332541.
  4. ^ a b Waddingham, Steve (2008-06-14). "Why this trophy for winning the rugby league World Cup?". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane. Archived from the original on 2012-09-26. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  5. ^ SPARC, 2009: 28
  6. ^ AAP (1953-01-19). "World Cup Suggestion". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. p. 7. Retrieved 2009-12-25.
  7. ^ AAP; Reuter (1962-08-15). "League Cup Year Fixed". The Sydney Morning Herald. Auckland. p. 18. Archived from the original on 2013-01-03. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
  8. ^ "When Great Britain won the World Cup". BBC. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  9. ^ AAP (1 December 2013). "Record rugby league crowd for World Cup final". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  10. ^ John Coffey; Bernie Wood (2008). 100 years: Māori rugby league, 1908-2008. Huia Publishers. p. 302. ISBN 9781869693312.
  11. ^ "Australia 6 England 0". BBC Sport. 2 December 2017. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  12. ^ Fletcher, Paul. "Rugby League World Cup: North America set to host 2025 tournament". BBC Sport. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  13. ^ Adrian Proszenko (2018-12-04). "US World Cup hosting plans torpedoed by money trouble". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  14. ^ RLIF. "Past Winners: 1954". Rugby League International Federation. Archived from the original on 2008-10-12. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
  15. ^ "Papua New Guinea to co-host Rugby League World Cup in 2017". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Australian Associated Press. 8 October 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015.

General

Further reading


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