Rugby League World Cup Tips, Previews & Predictions

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Rugby League World Cup

The Rugby League World Cup is an international rugby league tournament organised by the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF).

France were the first nation to campaign for a World Cup competition. Paul Barrière, President of the French Rugby League, convinced the International Board to support the concept with the first Rugby League World Cup held in France in 1954 .

It was the first World Cup in either rugby code and featured teams from Britain, Australia and New Zealand in addition to the hosts. The 1954 Rugby League World Cup was won by Great Britain who defeated France in the final.

The fifteen tournaments thus far have been at intervals from two to eight years and have featured a range of different formats. Only three nations have won the Rugby League World Cup. Australia have won a record eleven times, Great Britain three times and New Zealand once. 

The 2017 Rugby League World Cup was held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea which was won by Australia.

In 1975 the competition changed radically. Matches were played on a home and away basis around the world instead of one host nation, with Great Britain split into England and Wales. Two years later Great Britain were once again allowed to compete as a single entity. 

From 1985 to 1988 the Rugby League World Cup was once again played on a home and away basis over a long period of time. The competition was restructured once again in 1995, with ten nations entering a knockout stage with quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final. The tournament also returned to having a host nation.

Papua New Guinea became a competing nation in 1989, with Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and South Africa added in 1995. In 2000 the Rugby League World Cup expanded to 16 teams including a New Zealand Maori representative team for the first and only time.

It was a disappointing tournament with low attendances and frequent blow outs, with eight years needed to organise the next edition. The 2008 Rugby League World Cup featured 10 nations and was hosted in Australia with New Zealand winning to become only the third team to lift he Paul Barrière Trophy.

England and Wales hosted the World Cup in 2013 with 14 teams eligible. The tournament was a huge success with Australia defeating New Zealand 34-2 in the final, witnessed by 74,468 spectators which became a record for international rugby league.

The Rugby League International Federation decided to schedule the tournament every four years from then on, with the 2017 Rugby League World Cup taking place in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. 

Australia claim an eleventh title with Tonga beating New Zealand in the group stage, the first time a team outside the top 3 had beaten a top 3 nation in over 20 years. New Zealand were upset once again in the quarter-finals, going down 4-2 against Fiji.

Tonga produced a memorable come back against England in the semi-finals but ultimately came up short. Despite this defeat, the tournament marked a shift where smaller nations were able to beat and compete with the likes of Australia, England and New Zealand.

Australia defeated England at Lang Park in Brisbane in the final by a score of 6-0, the lowest score in Rugby League World Cup final history.

The 2021 tournament will be held in England with 16 nations competing. The 2025 Rugby League World Cup will spread its wings and be held in the United States and Canada.

Recent Rugby League World Cup Winners, Runners-Up & Hosts

2017AustraliaEnglandAustralia / New Zealand / Papua New Guinea
Warrington WolvesEngland / Wales
2008Leeds RhinosAustralia
New ZealandUnited Kingdom / Ireland / France
Great Britain
New ZealandInternational
Great Britain
New Zealand
1972Great Britain

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Rugby League Tips, Previews & Predictions