The first World Cup took place in 1954 with France, who had initially lobbied for the event, hosting a four team tournament that also included Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain. Great Britain emerged victorious with a 16-12 win over their hosts in the final at the Parc des Princes.
The next five World Cups, through until 1972, featured the same four nations with Australia and Great Britain dominating within varied formats.
In 1975 Great Britain became Wales and England to make a five team tournament held throughout the year but it reverted to type in 1977 when Australia pipped Great Britain 13-12 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
A new format was initiated in 1985 with five nations, including Papua New Guinea, competing on a home and away league basis over a three year period. The final, played at Eden Park in Auckland, attracted over 47,000 with Australia beating the Kiwis 25-12.
The same approach was adopted between 1989 and 1992 with Australia beating Great Britain in front of 73,000 at Wembley Stadium.
In 1995 an innovative new structure was adopted with 10 teams taking part. Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and South Africa joined the fray and an additional seven nations in Moldova, Russia, USA, Cook Islands, Morocco, Ireland and Scotland competed in a parallel Emerging Nations World Cup.
The 2000 World Cup featured 16 nations with Lebanon taking part for the first time and Russia, Ireland, Scotland and the Cook Islands stepping up to the main event. The Emerging Nations competition was also repeated with Japan, Italy and Canada all taking their bow in a Rugby League event.
The 2008 World Cup moved Down Under with 10 nations involved. New Zealand upset the odds and won the trophy for the first time after an epic final against Australia at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
In 2013 a total of 14 nations will be competing for Rugby League’s greatest prize at venues across England and Wales. Twelve of those nations are already known but, for two countries, there is a golden opportunity to step up to Rugby League’s top table and enhance their own standing.
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