November 13, 1954: The first Rugby League World Cup comes to an end. The French first campaigned for a competition of this type beginning in 1935. World events conspired to put a hold on the idea but it was raised once again in 1951 by Paul Barriere, the President of the French Rugby League. It took a few years and some persuasion, but it finally came to fruition and in 1954 the Rugby League World Cup challenge was initiated. There were four nations/teams involved in this first match held in Paris. France was involved, of course, as were Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. The teams played each other in league format with the top two contenders playing on this day.
Great Britain topped the table as a result of points difference, defeating France who had the second place on the table. The event hosted seven matches played in front of 138,329 spectators with 30,000 of them watching the final game place at the Parc des Princes in Paris. The tournament was the idea of the French as the rugby union had seized assets during World War II. The World Cup was highly successful with a high standard of play maintained throughout the event. The trophy was donated by the French and was worth eight million francs. In 1953, the four teams along with America had decided to play for this top honor and it took another year before the games could be played and then without the participation of an American team.
In the early 1950s, all four of the competing teams were fairly evenly matched and any could have, at least in theory, beaten the others for the title. There were no test series in the period and so no champion could be named. Australia was the favorite having won the Ashes before the decisions of 1953. By the time the games were held, Australia had lost to both the French and the Kiwis and Great Britain had defeated New Zealand. Because of injuries, many of the British team had not played together and their squad was fairly untried. The four captains were; Puig-Aubert (France), Cyril Eastlake (New Zealand), Clive Churchill (Australia) and Dave Valentine (Britain).
During the first round on October 30, France beat New Zealand 22-13 and on October 31 Great Britain beat Australia 28-13. During the second round on November 7, France and Great Britain tied at 13 all and Australia beat New Zealand 34-15. During the third round on November 11, Great Britain won over New Zealand 26-6 and France took Australia 15-5. During the final round on this day, Great Britain won with a score of 16 over France’s 12. Australia has won the event 10 times, the most of any nation. Mick Cronin has been the top scorer making 112 points for Australia while Kurt Sorenson, also of Australia, has made 25 appearances. The Rugby League World Cup event has been held 14 times so far with the next one scheduled for 2017 with Australia and New Zealand co-hosting.
Rugby is great. The players don’t wear helmets or padding; they just beat the living daylights out of each other and then go for a beer. I love that. – Joe Theismann
It’s like a rugby team. If you’re picking for the World Cup final, you’re picking experience with youth. Everything is better off having that balance and that mix. I think that, especially, goes for the monarchy as well. – Prince William
I’ve always said that playing rugby in Spain is like being a bullfighter in Japan. – Javier Bardem
The scrum and the tackle are the two really contentious areas of the game. If you get those two aspects right, most rugby matches will work in your favour. – Alan Lewis
Also on this day: Deadliest Natural Disaster of the Twentieth Century – In 1970, the Bhola cyclone hits land.
Meteors – In 1833, the Leonids meteor shower occurred.
Sammy and May – In 1960, the two married.
Rescue – In 1901, the Caister-on-Sea incident took place.