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1954 Rugby League World Cup

The 1954 Rugby League World Cup was rugby league football's first World Cup and was held in France in October-November 1954.[1] 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 Paris' Parc des Princes before approximately 31,000 spectators.[3]

1954 (1954) World Cup  ()
Number of teams4
Host country France
Winner Great Britain (1st title)

Matches played7
Attendance138,329 (19,761 per match)
Points scored231 (33 per match)
Top scorerUnited Kingdom Jimmy Ledgard (29)
Top try scorerUnited Kingdom Gordon Brown (6)

The prime instigators 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 French rugby union in the Second World War. The first rugby league world cup was an unqualified success. It was played in a 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]


Shirts of the teams in 1954.

The World Cup was a French initiative. Led by Paul Barrière, who donated the Rugby League World Cup trophy himself,[5] they had been campaigning for such a tournament since before the Second World War. Teams from Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand and the United States were invited to join the hosts, France, for the first World Cup in 1953.[6] However, the tournament was not held until 1954, with all teams except the United States participating. The French had suggested that the United States play but the other nations were concerned about a lack of competitiveness which was borne out by France beating the United States 31-0 on the 9th of January 1954.[7] It had been suggested that Wales be invited instead of the USA but they weren't approached.[8]

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 were 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


The games were played at various venues in France with the Final played at the Parc des Princes in Paris.

Paris Marseille Toulouse
Parc des Princes Stade Vélodrome Stadium de Toulouse
Capacity: 48,712 Capacity: 49,000 Capacity: 37,000
Lyon Bordeaux Nantes
Stade de Gerland Stade Chaban Delmas Stade Marcel Saupin
Capacity: 30,000 Capacity: 30,000 Capacity: 20,000


Group stageEdit

Team Pld W D L PF PA Diff Pts Qualification
  Great Britain 3 2 1 0 67 32 +35 5 Advances to the Final
  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
Raymond Contrastin
Vincent Cantoni

Puig Aubert (3)
[9] Try:
Gerry Helme (2)
Gordon Brown (2)
David Rose
Jimmy Ledgard (2)
Parc des Princes, Paris
Attendance: 30,368
Referee: Charles Appleton  
Man of the Match: Don Robinson  
Great Britain
FB 1   Puig Aubert (c)
RW 2   Vincent Cantoni
RC 3   Claude Teissiere
LC 4   Jacques Merquey
LW 5   Raymond Contrastin
SO 6   Antoine Jiminez
SH 7   Joseph Crespo
PR 8   Joseph Krawzyck
HK 9   Jean Audobert
PR 10   François Rinaldi
SR 11   Armand Save
SR 12   Jean Pambrun
LF 13   Gilbert Verdier
  Jean Duhau and Rene Duffort
FB 1   Jimmy Ledgard
RW 2   David Rose
RC 3   Phil Jackson
LC 4   Ally Naughton
LW 5   Mick Sullivan
SO 6   Gordon Brown
SH 7   Gerry Helme
PR 8   John Thorley
HK 9   Sam Smith
PR 10   Bob Coverdale
SR 11   Basil Watts
SR 12   Don Robinson
LF 13   Dave Valentine (c)
  G. Shaw



  1. ^ 1954 World Cup Archived 13 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine at
  2. ^ SPARC, 2009: 28
  3. ^ 1954 World Cup at
  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
  6. ^ AAP (19 January 1953). "World Cup Suggestion". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. p. 7. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
  7. ^ "France vs. United States of America". Rugby League Project. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  8. ^ Ferguson, Andrew. "THE FRENCH BARRIERE THAT WOULDN'T BREAK" (PDF). MenofLeague. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  9. ^ Report