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1985–1988 Rugby League World Cup

  (Redirected from 1985-88 Rugby League World Cup)

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.

1985–1988 (1985–1988) World Cup  ()
Number of teams5
Winner Australia (6th title)

Matches played18
Attendance218,246 (12,125 per match)
Points scored769 (42.72 per match)
Top scorerAustralia Michael O'Connor (74)
Top try scorerAustralia Michael O'Connor (6)
 < 1977

The competition was further altered by the addition of a new nation, Papua New Guinea.[1] The Kumuls performed creditably, particularly when playing in the front of their fiercely patriotic home crowd, while 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.

Despite finishing top of the table, poor international attendances since the mid-1970s (since 1974, the Kangaroos had only lost one test series, to France in 1978) meant the Australians declined to host the final, and asked New Zealand Rugby League to host the World Cup Final at Eden Park in Auckland; Cup organisers and New Zealand officials accepted this request.

Unfortunately for the Kiwis, home advantage with a record New Zealand attendance of over 47,000 was not enough, as the Kiwis went down 25–12 to the seemingly invincible Australians.


  Sydney   Wigan   Brisbane   Leeds
Sydney Football Stadium Central Park Lang Park Headingley
Capacity: 40,000 Capacity: 37,000 Capacity: 32,500 Capacity: 22,000
  Auckland   Port Moresby   Christchurch   Avignon
Carlaw Park Lloyd Robson Oval Addington Showgrounds Parc des Sports
Capacity: 20,000 Capacity: 17,000 Capacity: 15,000 Capacity: 15,000
  Perpignan   Wagga Wagga   Carcassonne
Stade Gilbert Brutus Eric Weissel Oval Stade Albert Domec
Capacity: 13,000 Capacity: 12,000 Capacity: 10,000


The World Cup Final was held at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand.

Eden Park
Capacity: 48,000



7 July
New Zealand   18 – 0   Australia
Carlaw Park, Auckland
Attendance: 15,327

9 November
Great Britain   6 – 6   New Zealand
Headingley, Leeds
Attendance: 22,209

7 December
France   0 – 22   New Zealand


16 February
France   10 – 10   Great Britain
Parc des Sports, Avignon
Attendance: 4,000

29 July
Australia   32 – 12   New Zealand
Lang Park, Brisbane
Attendance: 22,811

17 August
Papua New Guinea   24 – 22   New Zealand
Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby
Attendance: 15,000

4 October
Papua New Guinea   12 – 62   Australia
Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby
Attendance: 17,000

This match was the third Test of the 1986 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France's Ashes series.

22 November
Great Britain   15 – 24   Australia
Central Park, Wigan
Attendance: 20,169
Referee: J. Rascagneres

This was the final Test match of the 1986 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France.

13 December
France   0 – 52   Australia


24 January
Great Britain   52 – 4   France
Headingley, Leeds
Attendance: 6,567

24 October
Great Britain   42 – 0   Papua New Guinea
Central Park, Wigan
Attendance: 9,121

15 November
France   21 – 4   Papua New Guinea


22 May
Papua New Guinea   22 – 42   Great Britain
Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby
Attendance: 12,107

The victory lifted Great Britain above New Zealand into second place on the World Cup table on eight points – one ahead of the Kiwis.[2]

9 July
Australia   12 – 26   Great Britain
Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney
Attendance: 15,944

This was the end of a 15-match winning streak for the Australians,[3] 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.[4]

10 July
New Zealand   66 – 14   Papua New Guinea
Carlaw Park, Auckland
Attendance: 8,392

17 July
New Zealand   12 – 10   Great Britain

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.

20 July
Australia   70 – 8 Papua New Guinea  
Eric Weissel Oval, Wagga Wagga
Attendance: 11,685

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.[5] The sellout crowd of 11,685 also set a ground attendance record at Wagga Wagga's Eric Weissel Oval.[6]

Tournament standingsEdit

Team Played Won Drawn Lost For Against Difference Points
  Australia 8 6 0 2 252 91 +161 121
  New Zealand 8 5 1 2 158 86 +72 111
  Great Britain 8 4 2 2 203 90 +113 10
  Papua New Guinea 8 2 0 6 84 325 −241 41
  France 8 1 1 6 35 140 −105 3

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 financial difficulties.

World Cup FinalEdit

9 October 1988
New Zealand   12 – 25   Australia
Kevin Iro
Tony Iro

Peter Brown (2/5)
[1] Tries:
Allan Langer (2)
Gavin Miller
Dale Shearer
Michael O'Connor (4/7)
Field Goal:
Ben Elias
Eden Park, Auckland
Attendance: 47,363 [7]
Referee: Graham Ainui  
Man of the Match: Gavin Miller  
New Zealand
FB 1   Gary Mercer
RW 2   Tony Iro
RC 3   Kevin Iro
LC 4   Dean Bell (c)
LW 5   Mark Elia
FE 6   Gary Freeman
HB 7   Clayton Friend
PR 8   Peter Brown
HK 9   Wayne Wallace
PR 10   Adrian Shelford
SR 11   Mark Graham
SR 12   Kurt Sorensen
LF 13   Mark Horo
IC 14   Shane Cooper
IC 15   Sam Stewart
  Tony Gordon
FB 1   Garry Jack
RW 2   Dale Shearer
RC 3   Andrew Farrar
LC 4   Mark McGaw
LW 5   Michael O'Connor
FE 6   Wally Lewis (c)
HB 7   Allan Langer
PR 8   Paul Dunn
HK 9   Benny Elias
PR 10   Steve Roach
SR 11   Paul Sironen
SR 12   Gavin Miller
LF 13   Wayne Pearce
IC 14   David Gillespie
IC 15   Terry Lamb
  Don Furner

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).[8] 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.


  1. ^ Paddy McAteer (22 December 2010) "Whole World in their Hands" Archived 5 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine North West Evening Mail
  2. ^ "Schofield too hot for PNG". 22 May 1988. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  3. ^ Baker, Andrew (20 August 1995). "100 years of rugby league: From the great divide to the Super era". Independent, The. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
  4. ^ "Best of British shocks Aussies". Evening Times. 9 July 1988. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  5. ^ "O'Connor helps set Test records". The Age. 21 July 1988. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  6. ^ "Rugby League World Cup – Roo Tour Memories: Allan Langer". 18 October 2013. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  7. ^ RLWC 1985 – 1988: Australia at
  8. ^ BBC Sport – Rugby league – England to face New Zealand in 2010 Four Nations opener

External linksEdit