1954 Rugby League World Cup

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1954 (1954) World Cup  ()
Number of teams 4
Host country  France
Winner  Great Britain (1st title)

Matches played 7
Attendance 138,329 (19,761 per match)
Points scored 231 (33 per match)
Top scorer United Kingdom Jimmy Ledgard (29)
Top try scorer United Kingdom Gordon Brown (6)

The first Rugby League World Cup was held in France in 1954[1] and was officially known as the "Rugby World Cup".[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]


The World Cup was a French initiative. Led by Paul Barrière, who donated the World Cup trophy himself,[5] 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.[6] 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).


Team Nickname Coach Captain
 Australia (1st appearance) The Kangaroos Vic Hey Clive Churchill
 New Zealand (1st appearance) The Kiwis Jim Amos Cyril Eastlake
 Great Britain (1st appearance) The Lions G. Shaw Dave Valentine
 France (1st appearance) Les Chanticleers Puig Aubert


Group stage[edit]

Key to colours in group tables
Advances to the Final
Team Played Won Drew Lost For Against Difference Points
 Great Britain 3 2 1 0 67 32 +35 5
 France 3 2 1 0 50 31 +19 5
 Australia 3 1 0 2 52 58 −6 2
 New Zealand 3 0 0 3 34 82 −48 0
30 October 1954 France  22–13  New Zealand Parc des Princes, Paris
31 October 1954 Australia  13–28  Great Britain Stade de Gerland, Lyon
7 November 1954 France  13–13  Great Britain Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse
7 November 1954 Australia  34–15  New Zealand Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
11 November 1954 Great Britain  26–6  New Zealand Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux
11 November 1954 France  15–5  Australia Stade Marcel Saupin, Nantes


13 November 1954
France  12–16  Great Britain
Try: Cantoni
Goal: Puig Aubert
Report Try: Brown (2)
Goal: Ledgard
Parc des Princes, Paris
Attendance: 30,368
Referee/s: Charles Appleton (Great Britain)
Man of the Match: Don Robinson (Great Britain)



  1. ^ 1954 World Cup at rugbyleagueplanet.com
  2. ^ SPARC, 2009: 28
  3. ^ 1954 World Cup at rugbyleagueproject.org
  4. ^ RLIF. "Past Winners: 1954". Rugby League International Federation. Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2008. 
  5. ^ "1954 World Cup". 188 Rugby League. Archived from the original on 26 February 2012.  at 188-rugby-league.co.uk
  6. ^ AAP (19 January 1953). "World Cup Suggestion". The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). p. 7. Retrieved 25 December 2009.