1954 Rugby League World Cup
|Number of teams||4|
|Winner||Great Britain (1st title)|
|Attendance||138,329 (19,761 per match)|
|Points scored||231 (33 per match)|
|Top scorer||Jimmy Ledgard (29)|
|Top try scorer||Gordon Brown (6)|
The first Rugby League World Cup was held in France in 1954 and was officially known as the "Rugby World Cup". Four nations competed in the tournament: Australia, France, Great Britain and New Zealand. A group stage was held first, with Great Britain topping the table as a result of points difference. They went on to defeat France (who finished second in the table, level on points) in the final, which was held at the Parc des Princes, Paris, in front of around 30,000 spectators.
The prime motivators behind the idea of holding a rugby league world cup were the French, who were short of money following the seizing of their assets by the rugby union in World War II. The first rugby league World Cup was an unqualified success. It was played in uniformly good spirit, provided an excellent standard of play and was a fitting celebration of France's 20th anniversary as a rugby league-playing nation. The trophy, which was donated by the French, was worth eight million francs.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2014)|
The World Cup was a French initiative. Led by Paul Barrière, who donated the World Cup trophy himself, they had been campaigning for such a tournament since before World War II. Teams from America, Australia, Britain and New Zealand were invited to join hosts, France for the first World Cup in 1953. However the tournament was not held till 1954, with all teams except America participating.
The uncertainty of the ultimate outcome was of particular interest. In the early 1950s all four competing nations were quite capable of beating each other – no test series in the period was a foregone conclusion.
If there was a favourite it was Australia who had just won back the Ashes. However, in 1953 they had lost series to both the French and the Kiwis, while Great Britain had defeated New Zealand on the second half of their 1954 Australasian tour.
The form book merely provided a conundrum which was made more confusing when the British were forced, through injuries and players making themselves unavailable, to select a raw and largely untried squad which was given little credibility by the cynics.
The captains for this historic event were Puig-Aubert (France), Cyril Eastlake (New Zealand), Clive Churchill (Australia) and Dave Valentine (Britain). The referees were Warrington's Charlie Appleton and Rene Guidicelli (Perpignan).
New South Wales
For British players, the World Cup tournament took place during the 1954-55 Northern Rugby Football League season. Their coach was Mr G Shaw.
- Manager: Tom McKenzie (West Coast)
- Coach: Jim Amos (Canterbury)
|Cyril Eastlake (c)||Auckland||Back|
|George Menzies||West Coast||SO|
|Bill McLennan||West Coast||PR|
|Alister Atkinson (vc)||Canterbury||LF|
Parc des Princes, Paris
Referee: Charlie F. Appleton
France's niggling tactics in their win against New Zealand in the tournament's opening match drew criticism from the media and the Kiwis coach, Jim Amos. New Zealand winger Jimmy Edwards had the distinction of being the first scorer in World Cup history with a try after only five minutes. Puig-Aubert landed the first goal.
The British team proved too strong for Australia in both sides' first World Cup game.
Great Britain: Ledgard, Rose, Jackson, Sullivan, Kitchen, Brown, Helme, Valentine, Robinson, Watts, Coverdale, Smith, Thoreley.
Australia: Clive Churchill, Noel Pidding, Watson, Wells, Moir, Banks, Holman, Diversi, O'Shea, Provan, Duncan Hall, Keaney, Davies.
The game gripped the attention of the rugby league public as never before with a record crowd of 37,471 attending at Toulouse. That record crowd has still not been beaten in France. The draw resulted in Great Britain and France sharing the lead in the tournament.
Australia's victory in this match put them in third position on the ladder and New Zealand last.
Australia and France were playing for the chance to meet Great Britain in the final. Mistakes cost the Australians the match, so France advanced to the decider.
13 November 1954
The BBC broadcast the whole match live in the UK via the Television Continental Exchange – a rare novelty for the time. France opened the scoring with a penalty Puig-Aubert kick from 45 yards out and played well early in the match, leading early in the second half thanks to a brilliant try from Cantoni. However Great Britain didn't waver, with credit for the win given to a starring role by centre Phil Jackson and the play of their forward pack, as well as the tough match France had played against Australia in Nantes two days earlier. Great Britain defeated France 16–12 and became the first team to lift the World Cup.
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- SPARC, 2009: 28
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- 1954 World Cup at rlif.co.uk
- "On this Day - November 13 down the years". espn.co.uk. ESPN. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
- Paddy McAteer (22 December 2010) "Whole World in their Hands" North West Evening Mail
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