The Most Successful Nations in the History of the Rugby League World Cup

The Rugby League World Cup is one of the most exciting and fiercely contested events in international sport, with nations from all over the globe competing for the title of world champion. Through its various incarnations, the tournament has been won by a number of different nations, each bringing its own unique style of play and excitement to the event. And the 2021 installment of the tournament was no exception. 

The most recent edition of the Rugby League World Cup took place in England last autumn and was a rousing success. The hosts looked set to be on a collision course with the greatest rivals from down under however, they were stunned by Samoa in the semi-finals. 

The Pacific Islanders won with a golden point drop goal in overtime in front of over 40,000 at the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal Football Club. Australia who were the reigning champions met New Zealand in a nail-biting semifinal. The match was thrilling, with sportsbook Joe Fortune, which is an online casino in Australia for real money favoring the Aussies, resulting in their eventual triumph at 16-14. 

They would then triumph over Samoa in the final at Old Trafford,. 67,000 witnessed them demolish their unheralded opponents by a score of 30-10, thus strengthening their stranglehold on the competition and securing their legacy as the greatest Rugby League playing nation on the planet. 

Australian Dominance 

The most successful nation in the tournament’s history is Australia. The Aussies have been the undisputed kings of the Rugby League World Cup for as long as one can remember. Of the ten tournaments that have taken place since 1975, Australia have won nine of them they reached the final on the other occasion, finishing as runners-up to  New Zealand in 2008.  

In this period, Australia has produced some of the greatest players in the tournament’s history, including Jonathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, and Billy Slater.

New Zealand 

Australia’s nearest rival in terms of World Cup success is New Zealand. The Kiwis have reached the final of the tournament four times, however, were runners-up to Australia on every occasion namely in 2013, 2010, and 1988. New Zealand has produced some of the greatest players in rugby league, including Benji Marshall, Stacey Jones, and Ruben Wiki.

The Kiwis did get their revenge for their greatest rivals’ continued success, and it couldn’t have come in a better place. They defeated Australia 34-20 in Brisbane in 2008 to lift the trophy for the first time in their history, on enemy territory no less. 

Great Britain

Great Britain are the second most successful nation in the Rugby League World Cup’s history, winning the tournament three times. The British were a force to be reckoned with since the tournament’s inception in 1954, with some of their most famous players including Ellery Hanley, Garry Schofield, and Martin Offiah.

The last tournament which saw Great Britain compete came back in 1992. That year, they lost to Australia in the final at Wembley Stadium, which saw 66,000 Brits go home heartbroken after succumbing to the victorious Aussies. In the years since, the Home Nations have gone their separate ways, with varying levels of success. 

England reached the final in both 1995 and 2017 however, on both occasions they were beaten by – yes, you guessed it – Australia. Wales has also progressed in the competition. They reached the semifinals in 1995 and 2000. In the most recent tournament, however, they couldn’t register a solitary win

They were drawn in Group D alongside three Pacific Islanders. After avoiding England, New Zealand, and Australia, many expected the Welsh to impress however, they were stunned by Tonga, Papua New Guinea, and the Cook Islands. 

The Success of the Pacific Islanders 

Australia’s neighbours, Papua New Guinea, have achieved remarkable success in the Rugby League World Cup, becoming the first non-Test nation to reach the semi-finals of the tournament in 1985. The Kumuls have also made a number of shock exits from the tournament, most notably in the 1997 tournament, where they were knocked out by Fiji in the quarter-finals.

Speaking of the Fijians, they reached three consecutive semifinals between 2008 and 2017, and one would imagine that they won’t have to wait too much longer for their maiden success. 

Other nations who have achieved success in the Rugby League World Cup include Tonga, who became the first Pacific Island nation to reach the semi-finals of the tournament in 2017. They were joined by Samoa at the 2021 World Cup, who went one better by reaching the final against all odds. 

The Rugby League World Cup is one of the most thrilling and competitive tournaments in international sports, and its history is full of upsets and surprises. While Australia has been the most successful nation in the tournament’s history, there have been a number of other nations who have achieved success, and will no doubt continue to do so in the future.

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