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Rugby League World Cup history

Australia's victorious team celebrate their win in 2000
Australia have won the last six Rugby League World Cup tournaments

By Phil Harlow

With players representing more than one country, myriad format changes and irregular intervals between tournaments, the Rugby League World Cup has not always made things easy for the sport's followers.

But one feature - at least from 1975 onwards - has remained constant: Australia end up winning it.

The Kangaroos have won nine of the 12 tournaments played so far to enhance their reputation as the best team on the planet.

But their dominance has, a little like Michael Schumacher's reign in Formula One, been viewed as unhealthy, prompting many to write the whole concept off as a one-horse race.

Britain in action in the 1957 World Cup
Britain take on France in the 1957 World Cup
Yet when the World Cup kicked off in 1954, essentially as a-four nation affair, Australia were some way off the pace. Britain and France topped the table before the former claimed a 16-12 win in the final.

Britain were the favourites to defend their title in 1957 but Australia won all three of their games to take the title, eventually playing a Rest of the World XIII after organisers decided no official final was necessary.

No World Cup final was needed in 1960 either as a GB side containing the legendary Eric Ashton, Billy Boston and Vince Karalius topped the table to give themselves the luxury of an exhibition game in lieu of a decider.

The next tournament came around in 1968, but here the powers that be decided that a final would be mandatory, with the Kangaroos seeing off France 20-2 in front of 54,000 fans in Sydney.

Australia retained their title in 1970, although they had to do without the original trophy, which went missing six days before the final which the Kangaroos won 12-7 against Great Britain.

The Lions gained their revenge two years later in 1972 as they topped the table - still consisting of just the original four nations - before drawing 10-10 with the Aussies in the final to claim the title.

2000: Australia
1995: Australia
1992: Australia
1988: Australia
1977: Australia
1975: Australia
1972: Great Britain
1970: Australia
1968: Australia
1960: Great Britain
1957: Australia
1954: Great Britain
Mike Stephenson, now better known to younger fans as the inimitable commentator Stevo, was among the try-scorers that night in Lyon - but that was as good as it got for the rest of the world.

The tournament took on a green-and-gold hue as Australia claimed the 1975 title. There was a completely changed format with the action played out over eight months as part of a "World Series".

Again, there was no final as Australia came out on top over their eight games, with England and Wales competing separately for the first time.

It was a similar story in 1977 as Australia topped the table, but this time around a final was played, with the Kangaroos edging out a reunited Great Britain 13-12 in a match the Lions were considered dreadfully unlucky to lose.

The next tournament got under way in 1985, but, with another format change brought in, the matches took place over the course of three years before Australia emerged as champions in 1988.

Papua New Guinea joined the party to make it a field of five, but France did little for the credibility of the tournament by failing to fulfil all their fixtures. The Kangaroos claimed a 25-12 win over New Zealand in the final.

With the 1992 climax coming at the end of a similar three-year format, a Great Britain side including Shaun Edwards, Ellery Hanley and Garry Schofield squeezed into the final at Wembley on goal difference.

But, despite the fervent support of a 73,361 crowd, Schofield's side came up just short as Mal Meninga's Australia edged to a 10-6 victory.

Australia's Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns
Australia recovered from a slow start to win the 1995 tournament
The 1995 tournament saw rugby league spread its wings in its centenary year, with Fiji, South Africa, Tonga and Western Samoa all taking part for the first time.

England and Wales once again competed as separate teams as 10 sides were divided into three pools, and the home nation got off to a great start with a 20-16 win over Australia at Wembley

But, when the teams met again in the final, it was Australia who eventually came out on top once again with a 16-8 victory over a side featuring Jason Robinson, Martin Offiah and Denis Betts.

And it was a familiar story five years later in 2000 as Australia cantered to their sixth straight title.

The 16 teams on display made it the biggest and most ambitious tournament to date as Russia, Lebanon, Cook Islands, Ireland, Scotland and New Zealand Maori all entered the fray.

But it proved to be a misjudgement as a number of one-sided encounters failed to catch the public's attention before the Kangaroos saw off New Zealand 40-12 in the final.

see also
Rugby League World Cup squads
07 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
World Cup qualifying
29 Nov 07 |  Rugby League
Wilkin expresses World Cup fears
12 Nov 07 |  Rugby League
World Cup set for 10-team format
25 Nov 05 |  International
Desperate need for serious opposition
26 Nov 00 |  World Cup 2000
Australia win epic World Cup final
25 Nov 00 |  World Cup 2000
Curtain falls on World Cup
25 Nov 00 |  World Cup 2000

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