1985–1988 Rugby League World Cup
|Number of teams||5|
|Winner||Australia (6th title)|
|Attendance||218,246 (12,125 per match)|
|Points scored||769 (42.72 per match)|
|Top scorer||Michael O'Connor (74)|
|Top try scorer||Michael O'Connor (6)|
The 1985–1988 Rugby League World Cup was the ninth Rugby League World Cup tournament held and saw yet another change of format with competition stretched to cover almost three years (1985 to 1988). The national rugby league teams of Australia, France, Great Britain, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea played each other on a home and away basis. These matches were fitted into the normal international programme of three-match test series between the nations, with a pre-designated match from each series counting as the world cup fixture.
The competition was further altered by the addition of a new nation, Papua New Guinea. The Kumuls performed creditably, particularly when playing in the front of their fiercely patriotic home crowd. Conversely, France were unable to fulfil their 1987 tour of Australasia due to financial difficulties, and had to forfeit away fixtures against Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
At the end of four years, Australia finished top of the table, and, through a victory over Great Britain in Christchurch, the Kiwis qualified to join them in the final which Australia had won the right to host, but due to declining international attendances in Australia largely due to the Kangaroo's dominance since the mid-late 1970s (since 1974, they had only lost one test series to France in 1978) and allowed the New Zealand Rugby League to host the World Cup Final at the Eden Park ground in Auckland. Unfortunately for them, home advantage with a record New Zealand attendance of over 47,000 was not enough for the Kiwis who went down 25–12 to the seemingly invincible Australians.
This was the final Test match of the 1986 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France.
The victory lifted Great Britain above New Zealand into second place on the World Cup table on eight points – one ahead of the Kiwis.
This was the end of a 15-match winning streak for the Australians, and Great Britain's first Test victory over the Kangaroos since their 18–14 win at Odsal during the 1978 Kangaroo tour, as well as their first win in Australia for 18 years. It also put Great Britain on top of the World Cup points table.
The last group stage match for both teams turned out to be a sudden death battle for a spot in the final. For New Zealand nothing less than a win would get them to the Final while Great Britain only needed a draw. It was also the last Test match of the 1988 Great Britain Lions tour. The Kiwis victory meant they qualified to face Australia in the final at Eden Park, Auckland.
Australia's 62-point win set a new record for largest winning margin in international rugby league. Winger Michael O'Connor also set a new record for most points scored by an individual in international rugby league. The sellout crowd of 11,685 also set a ground attendance record at Wagga Wagga's Eric Weissel Oval.
|Papua New Guinea||8||2||0||6||84||325||−241||41|
1 France's 1987 away fixtures against Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea were scratched and each team awarded two points as the French were unable to tour Australasia that year due to finanical difficulties.
World Cup Final
9 October 1988
|New Zealand||12 – 25||Australia|
Peter Brown (2)
Allan Langer (2)
Michael O'Connor (4)
The 1985–1988 Rugby League World Cup saw New Zealand play Australia in the World Cup final, the culmination of four years of competition. The Final was played at the spiritual home of rugby union in New Zealand, Auckland's Eden Park. It was the first time that rugby league had been played at the ground since 1919. The final attracted the highest ever crowd for a rugby league match in New Zealand of 47,363 (only 672 less than had attended the 1987 Rugby World Cup Final at the venue). Australia had won the right to host the final, but in the interests of promoting the game, and because attendances for internationals played in Australia had been dwindling for over a decade due to the Kangaroos dominance, the ARL agreed to move the game to New Zealand. Prior to kick-off Graham Brazier performed the New Zealand national anthem.
Despite Australia's successful Ashes defence against Great Britain earlier in the year, the inexperience of the Australian World Cup Final team (and because NZ had defeated Australia in their previous encounter in a one-off test in Brisbane in 1987), saw the hosts actually go into the match as favourites in the eyes of many critics. However, the Wally Lewis led Kangaroos, boasting veteran test players Garry Jack, Dale Shearer, Michael O'Connor, Steve Roach, Paul Dunn, Wayne Pearce, and Terry Lamb, along with 1986 Kangaroos Ben Elias and Paul Sironen, mixed with newer international players Mark McGaw, Allan Langer, Gavin Miller, Andrew Farrar and David Gillespie, triumphed over the ill-disciplined Kiwis, who at least made sure the victorious Australians were bloodied and bruised for their victory lap. For the Kiwis, the Iro brothers Tony and Kevin, Gary Freeman, Clayton Friend, Mark Graham, Adrian Shelford, Kurt Sorensen and captain Dean Bell dished out the punishment.
Despite Queensland having won the State of Origin series 3–0 over New South Wales earlier in the year, the Maroons only supplied three of Australia's 15 players for the World Cup Final. Captain Wally Lewis (who broke his right forearm in the 15th minute of the game while tackling Tony Iro), Dale Shearer and Allan Langer. Lewis later claimed that it was the same as had been the case since Origin started in 1980, Qld wins the series but it was mainly NSW players picked for Australia.
- Paddy McAteer (22 December 2010) "Whole World in their Hands" Archived 5 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine. North West Evening Mail
- "Schofield too hot for PNG". 22 May 1988. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Baker, Andrew (20 August 1995). "100 years of rugby league: From the great divide to the Super era". Independent, The. independent.co.uk. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
- "Best of British shocks Aussies". Evening Times. 9 July 1988. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
- "O'Connor helps set Test records". The Age. 21 July 1988. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- "Rugby League World Cup – Roo Tour Memories: Allan Langer". broncos.com.au. 18 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
- RLWC 1985 – 1988: Australia at RLIF.co.uk
- BBC Sport – Rugby league – England to face New Zealand in 2010 Four Nations opener