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world cup

The first World Cup took place in 1954 with France, who had initially lobbied for the event, hosting a four team tournament that also included Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain. Great Britain emerged victorious with a 16-12 win over their hosts in the final at the Parc des Princes.

The next five World Cups, through until 1972, featured the same four nations with Australia and Great Britain dominating within varied formats.

In 1975 Great Britain became Wales and England to make a five team tournament held throughout the year but it reverted to type in 1977 when Australia pipped Great Britain 13-12 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

A new format was initiated in 1985 with five nations, including Papua New Guinea, competing on a home and away league basis over a three year period. The final, played at Eden Park in Auckland, attracted over 47,000 with Australia beating the Kiwis 25-12.

The same approach was adopted between 1989 and 1992 with Australia beating Great Britain in front of 73,000 at Wembley Stadium.

In 1995 an innovative new structure was adopted with 10 teams taking part. Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and South Africa joined the fray and an additional seven nations in Moldova, Russia, USA, Cook Islands, Morocco, Ireland and Scotland competed in a parallel Emerging Nations World Cup.

The 2000 World Cup featured 16 nations with Lebanon taking part for the first time and Russia, Ireland, Scotland and the Cook Islands stepping up to the main event.  The Emerging Nations competition was also repeated with Japan, Italy and Canada all taking their bow in a Rugby League event.

The 2008 World Cup moved Down Under with 10 nations involved. New Zealand upset the odds and won the trophy for the first time after an epic final against Australia at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

Successful national teams

Nation Number of appearances First appearance Most consecutive cups Best result
Australia 13 1954 13 Champion, 1957; 1968; 1970; 1975; 1977; 1988; 1992; 1995; 2000
Great Britain 9 1954 6 Champion, 1954; 1960; 1972
New Zealand 13 1954 13 Champion, 2008
France 13 1954 13 Runner-up, 1954; 1968;
England 4 1975 3 Runner-up, 1975; 1995
Wales 3 1975 2 Semi-finalist, 1995; 2000
Fiji 3 1995 3 Semi-finalist, 2008
Ireland 2 2000 2 Quarter-finalist, 2000, 2008
PNG 5 1988 5 Quarter-finalist, 2000
Samoa 3 1995 3 Quarter-finalist, 2000
Tonga 3 1995 3 Two wins, 2008
Scotland 2 2000 2 One win, 2008
Aotearoa Māori 1 2000 1 One win, 2000
South Africa 2 1995 2 No games won
Cook Islands 1 2000 1 No games won
Lebanon 1 2000 1 No games won
Russia 1 2000 1 No games won


Championships Nation
9 Australia
3 Great Britain
1 New Zealand

Overall top point scorers

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
1954 Dave Valentine G Shaw
1957 Dick Poole Dick Poole
1960 Eric Ashton William Fallowfield
1968 Johnny Raper Harry Bath
1970 Ron Coote Harry Bath
1972 Clive Sullivan Jim Challinor
1975 Arthur Beetson 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

Highest Score and Widest Margin

Australia beat Russia: 110 - 4 (106 Point Margin) at Hull, November 4th 2000

Biggest Attendance

73,631 - Great Britain v Australia, 1992 World Cup Final at Wembley, October 24th 1992 

Most Tries in a Match

4 by Keith Fielding (England) v France at Bordeaux, October 11th 1975

   by Dale Shearer (Australia) v France at Carcassonne, December 13th 1986

   by Michael O'Connor (Australia) v Papua New Guinea at Wagga, July 20th 1988

   by Mat Rogers (Australia) v Fiji at Gateshead, November 1st 2000

   by Wendell Sailor (Australia) v Russia at Hull, Novermber 4th 2000

   by Manu Vatuvei (New Zealand) v England at Newcastle, November 8th 2008

Most Goals in a Match

17 by Ryan Girdler (Australia) v Russia at Hull, November 4th 2000

Most Points in a Match

46 by Ryan Girdler (Australia) v Russia at Hull, November 4th 2000


World Cup TV: Road to the Final

Watch New Zealand and Australia's route through to Old Trafford.

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