Rugby World Cup 1954

The very first Rugby League World Cup surprisingly took place on French soil in 1954, after the tournament was masterminded by administrator Paul Barriere, who donated the World Cup trophy himself.

The sport was on its knees in France following the Second World War and desperately needed the commercial gain such a tournament might bring.

France had a highly competitive side during the 1950s, led by the thrilling talents of full-back Puig Albert, and they brushed aside New Zealand easily in the opening pool game of the tournament, 22-13 at the Parc de Princes.

Great Britain defeated Australia before holding the French to a thrilling 13-13 draw in the next match in Toulouse, a game that drew the largest crowd of the tournament with over 37,000 fans watching.

The Australians kick-started their own tournament with a 34-15 mauling of New Zealand in Marseilles, but that proved to be the consolation prize as they lost narrowly 15-5 to France in their final pool match.

Great Britain ensured that New Zealand left the first World Cup winless with a 26-6 victory in Bordeaux, setting up a repeat of their earlier crunch match against France in the final.
Again over 30,000 people were in attendance, this time back at the Parc des Princes, but the home crowd had their hearts broken as two tries from stand-off Gordon Brown saw Great Britain win the trophy with a 16-12 victory.

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