New Zealand's road to the final started on 27 October at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington, where they played Samoa, who were knocked out in the quarter-final stage. New Zealand stormed the match with 8 tries to earn a 42-24 victory. New Zealand then found themselves playing the co-hosts France at the Parc des Sports in Avignon. In front of a sold out capacity crowd, New Zealand kept the hosts to zero points, while New Zealand scored 8 tries to win 48-0. The Kiwis returned to England to play Papua New Guinea, who had failed to win a single match in the run up the New Zealand game. New Zealand continued their Group B dominance and scored 10 tries to earn a 56-10 victory to top the group and advance to the knock out stage.
New Zealand faced Scotland in the quarter-final, who like New Zealand hadn't lost a single game in the Group stage but did at worst draw 30 all against Italy. New Zealand was victorious in the quarter-final match running in 8 tries to 1 to win 40–4. In a hard fought semi-final, New Zealand won 20–18 against hosts England. The home side were leading for most of the first half, up 8-0, 25 minutes into the match. A try from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and 2 goals from Shaun Johnson meant 8 all was the half time score. New Zealand looked to start to dominate the match with a second 44th minute try from Tuivasa-Sheck for the Kiwis to lead 12-8. Tries from England's Kallum Watkins and Sam Burgess meant with just 10 minutes to go, England were in front 14-18. A last gasp try on the 80th minute for New Zealand, could at least take the semi-final to over time should Johnson not be able to convert his own try. Unfortunately for the hosts, Johnson bisected the posts to take the Kiwis the their third final, and keep them with in the chance to defend their title.
Australia's road to the final started on the opening day of the tournament at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff against hosts England. Australia ran in 5 tries to England's 4 to earn a hard fought 28-20 victory under the roof in Cardiff. Australia then played Fiji, who had opened their tournament with a 32–14 win over Ireland, at Langtree Park in St Helens. The Kangaroos were victorious in this match, winning 34-2 with 6 tries to nil.Thomond Park in Limerick was the venue for Australia's final match of the group stage against Ireland. Ireland hadn't won any matches in the run up this final match, only scoring 14 points in 2 games which came against Fiji (0 against England). With Australia's 9 tries, including 24 points in 10 minutes, Australia went out victors 50-0. With Australia's 3 from 3 wins in the group stage and the conceding of only 22 points, Australia topped Group A and advanced to the knock out stage.
In the quarter-final, Australia played new comers United States at The Racecourse Ground in Wrexham. Australia were the victors 62-0 scoring 12 tries, including 4 from Jarryd Hayne and 4 from Man of the Match Brett Morris. Australia played Fiji in the semi-final, a replay of the Group A match that happened on 2 November (28 days earlier). This time, Australia kept Fiji scoreless, running in 11 tries to win 64-0, which including a 22 points in 10 minutes. Australia therefore advanced to the final for the 10th time in a row.
Before the final, Australia and New Zealand had played each other 135 times, with Australia winning 91 times, New Zealand 29 and 3 draws. Of the last 10 encounters, Australia had won 8 of them, New Zealand 1 and a single draw. New Zealand's last win was November 2010, running out 16-12 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. Their last meeting was in April 2013 for the 2013 ANZAC Test, where Australia won 32-12 at Canberra Stadium in Canberra. The two teams have met each other on 17 occasions in a Rugby League World Cup match, Australia winning most of them at 15 and New Zealand at 2 wins. Three of these matches were a final match; 1985–1988, 2000 and 2008. The 2008 Rugby League World Cup Final was won by New Zealand 34-20, which was the first time New Zealand had won the tournament.
In the run up to the 2013 Rugby League World Cup Final, Australia had only conceded 22 points, and let though 4 tries, while scoring 238 points and crossing the line 43 times; 20 Group stage, 12 quarter-final and 11 Semi-final. New Zealand, however, had conceded 56 points and let through 11 tries, while scoring 206 points and attacking their opponent with 37 tries; 26 Group stage, 1 quarter-final and 3 semi-final.
After Australia kicked off, a New Zealand error in the first set of the game led to an early opportunity and field position for Australia, and the penalty was kicked by Johnathan Thurston to open the scoring to 0-2. Further play from the Kiwis brought them into the Australian half of the field, and a holding penalty then given by the Australians was kicked by Shaun Johnson to level the score to 2-2 at the 16 minute mark. Despite Old Trafford having an in-goal area of just 4.1m, Australia were able to force a line drop-out. From this, Thurston was able to kick to Billy Slater, setting up the first four-pointer which Thurston also converted to make the score 2-8. A try attempt by Cooper Cronk was controversially  disallowed by the video referee, who ruled Isaac Luke had been able to stop the ball coming into contact with the in-goal grass. A few more minutes led to a successful try by Cronk, as Darius Boyd's grubber kick found him space and Thurston again converted to 2-14. Manu Vatuvei's attacking run for New Zealand saw him pushed over the sideline, and an offside penalty at the 35 minute mark gave Thurston another kick to bring the score out to 2-16 at halftime.
Billy Slater opened the scoring on the first set of the second half, thanks to a run down the sideline from winger Darius Boyd, giving Thurston another chance to convert and bring the score to 2-22. A charge-down by Ben Matulino and regather from Sonny Bill Williams led to New Zealand beginning attack at halfway. More potential attack from the Kiwis was defused easily by the Australians, until a New Zealand grubber gave possession back to the Australians. A flick offload from Josh Papalii led to a chip kick from Brett Morris, regathered and then re-kicked by Jarryd Hayne led to a sliding Morris try. A conversion by Thurston brought the score out to 2-28. Both teams were having issues with the geography of the ground, as Morris collided with the signage during his try and a flying Manu Vatuvei landed awkwardly on the concrete surrounding the field. Australia's control of the game led to the New Zealanders forced into defense of their own line, defusing Australia's attack but not managing any successful attack of their own. A near 100 metre try by Morris, thanks to the efforts of Hayne, and conversion by Thurston made the score 2-34 with eight minutes to go.
Australian scrum half back Johnathan Thurston was named the final's man-of-the-match, his fourth such award of the tournament. He also broke the 31-year-old record of Mick Cronin, passing the record of 309 Test points for the Kangaroos. The 32-point margin set a new record for heaviest victory in a final, eclipsing Australia’s 40-12 victory over the Kiwis in the same stadium in 2000.