The inaugural Rugby League World Cup was the initiative of the French. The French side of the early fifties is still recognized as one of the most powerful and skilful teams in Rugby League history. The French struck early at the state of the art ground, Parc de Princes in Paris, beating New Zealand 22-13. The four-team tournament, which also included Australia’s Kangaroos and Great Britain’s Lions, saw each nation play the other three sides once, with a points table used to decide the winner.
France and Britain staged an epic 13-all draw in Toulouse before 37,000 fans, and with the Aussies and Kiwis floundering through the series, it left the two northern hemisphere teams equal at the top of the table – the inaugural World Cup Final was required to decide the ultimate victor.
Returning to Parc de Princes for the Final, the enigmatic French fullback Puig Aubert led his team on to field to the hopeful cheers of over 30,000 Parisians and visitors alike. The match was shown live-to-air on television across the UK. In what proved to be an epic Final, showcasing the spectacle and ardor of the 13-man game, the British came from behind to lower France’s flag 16-12, with their best work coming from their inspirational leader Dave Valentine, along with Gerry Helme, Phil Jackson and Mick Sullivan.
||France 22 New Zealand 13
||Great Britain 28 Australia 13
||Australia 34 New Zealand 15
||France 13 Great Britain 13
||France 15 Australia 3
||Great Britain 26 New Zealand 6
At Parc de Princes, Paris
Great Britain 16 (Brown 2, Rose, Helme tries; Ledgard 2 goals d France 12 (Cantoni, Contrastin tries; Puig-Aubert 3 goals). Crowd: 30,368. Referee: C Appleton (Great Britain).
Great Britain: J Ledgard, D Rose, P. Jackson, A Naughton, M Sullivan, G Brown, G Helme, D Valentine capt; D Robinson, B Watts, R Coverdale, S Smith, J Thorley.
France: Puig-Aubert capt; V Cantoni, C Teisseire, J Merquey, R Contrastin, A Jiminez, J Crespo, G Verdier, J Pambrun, A Save, F Rinaldi, J Audobert, J Krawzyck. Highlights:
- The French RL President Paul Barriere donated the first World Cup trophy. It was worth eight million francs.
- France defeated New Zealand 22-13 in the first ever World Cup match.
- Great Britain was captained by Scotsman Dave Valentine, while France was led by Puig Aubert, Australia by Clive Churchill and New Zealand by Cyril Eastlake.
- Great Britain and France each posted two wins and a draw to reach the final while Australia’s sole win came against New Zealand.
- The first World Cup Final was played at one of Europe’s best venues-the Parc De Princes in Paris.
- Two tries by G Brown and an inspired effort from an under-strength British team saw them win the final 16-12.