The first Rugby League World Cup was held in France in 1954. The prime motivators behind the idea of holding rugby league world cup were the French, who were short of money following the seizing of their assets by the rugby union in World War II. They had campaigned for it since 1935. In January 1952 the idea gained momentum. At a meeting held in Blackpool, England, November 1953, the International Board accepted Paul Barrie’s proposal that France should be the nation to host the inaugural Rugby League World Cup.
The World Cup was initially contested by the four Test nations: Australia, Great Britain, France and New Zealand). The teams played each other in a league format.
A group stage was held first, with Great Britain topping the table as a result of points difference. They went on to defeat France (who finished second in the table, level on points) in the final, which was held at the Charlety Stadium, Paris, in front of around 30,000 spectators.
October 30: France 22 - 13 New Zealand (Paris)
October 31: Australia 13 - 28 Great Britain (Lyon)
November 7: France 13 - 13 Great Britain (Toulouse)
November 7: Australia 34 - 15 New Zealand (Marseilles)
November 11: Great Britain 26 - 6 New Zealand (Bordeaux)
November 11: France 15 - 5 Australia (Nantes)
November 13: France 12 - 16 Great Britain (Charlety Stadium, Paris)
Extract from http://www.napit.co.uk/viewus/infobank/rugby/superleague/worldcup.php
The second World Cup in Australia in 1957. Australia proved victorious on their home ground after ending up top opf the ladder.
After the successful 1960 competition, in which Great Britain won the title for the second time, there would be no further World Cup for 8 years. The competition had be scheduled to be held in France in 1965, but after an unsuccessful tour of Australia, the French withdrew. The tournament was next held in 1968, and followed a 2 year cycle until the mid-1970s. The 1972 World Cup final ended in a 10-all draw, and the title was awarded to Great Britain by virtue of their superior record in the qualifiers.
In 1975 the competition underwent its most radical overhaul to date. It was decided to play matches on a home and away basis around the world, instead of in any one host nation. Furthermore, the Great Britain team was spilt into England and Wales. Australia won that tournament, and in 1977 it was decided that Great Britain should once more compete as a single entity. Although the final between Australia and Great Britain was a closely fought affair, public interest in the tournament waned due to the continuing tinkering with the format, and it would not be held again until the mid-1980s.
From 1985 to 1988, each nation played each other a number of times on a home and away basis. At the end of that period Australia met New Zealand at Eden Park. The match was a physical encounter, and Australian captain Wally Lewis played part of the match with a broken arm. The Kangaroos won the competition 25-12. This format was repeated from 1989-1992, and Australia defeated Great Britain 10-6 at Wembley Stadium in front of 72,000 people. This crowd remains a rugby league World Cup record.
In 1995 the competition was once again restructured, and the largest number of teams to date, 10, entered. New teams competing included Fiji, Tonga Samoa and South Africa. The tournament, which was also held to celebrate the centenary of the sport in England, was highly successful with over 250,000 people attending the group stages and over 66,000 people attending the final to see Australia defeat England 16-8 in the final.
The 2000 world cup expanded the field further, with 16 teams entering. Blown out scorelines ensured that this tournament was not as successful as the previous one. Ten teams are to compete in the next World Cup in Australia in 2008. It has also been announced that a further tournament will be held in Great Britain in 2012
Potted history from http://www.rlcup.com/history.php:
1954 World Cup Champions - Great Britain
Great Britain defeated France 16-12 in the first ever 'Rugby' World Cup Final, played in Paris. The 1954 World Cup was played in France.
1957 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia won by virtue of being at the top of the ladder. Followed games in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia defeating New Zealand 25-5, Great Britain 31-6 and France 26-9.
1960 World Cup Champions - Great Britain
Great Britain won by virtue of being at the top of the ladder. Great Britain defeated Australia 10-3 at Odsal Stadium in England. Both Great Britain and Australia were undefeated coming into the match.
1968 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated France 20-2 in the World Cup Final in Sydney. The 1968 World Cup was played in Australia and New Zealand.
1970 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated Great Britain 12-7 in the World Cup Final in Leeds. The 1970 World Cup was played in England.
1972 World Cup Champions - Great Britain
Great Britain and Australia played a 10-all draw in Lyon, France. Great Britain were declared World Cup winners by virtue of being undefeated.
1975 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia won by virtue of being at the top of the ladder, one point ahead of England. The 1975 World Cup was played in Australia, New Zealand, England, Wales and France and was spread over the entire year. Great Britain was divided into the two home nations of England and Wales.
1977 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated Great Britain 13-12 in the World Cup Final in Sydney. The 1977 World Cup was played in Australia and New Zealand.
1985-1988 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated New Zealand 25-12 in the World Cup Final in Auckland. Played internationally over four seasons, the ninth World Cup tournament saw the introduction of Papua-New Guinea.
1989-1992 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated Great Britain 10-6 in the World Cup Final in front of 76,631 people at Wembley Stadium in London.
1995 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated England 16-8 in the World Cup Final in London. The 1995 World Cup, played in England, saw the introduction of more rugby league nations as well Great Britain being divided into home nations. The Australian Rugby League announced that matches played by the Kangaroos would be given ARL Test match status.
2000 World Cup Champions - Australia
Australia defeated New Zealand 40-12 in the World Cup Final in Manchester. The 2000 World Cup was played in Great Britain and France. Great Britain was divided itself into four home nations. A number of new teams were introduced including NZ Maori and Cook Is. in addition to Lebanon, Russia, Fiji and South Africa.
2008 World Champions - New Zealand
New Zealand defeated Australia 34 - 20 in the World cup final in Brisbane. The 2008 world cup was played in Australia. Massive underdogs heading into the match, the Kiwis pulled off the biggest upset in World Cup history as the Kangaroos surrendered their No.1 ranking to their trans-Tasman rivals with their first loss since 2006.
The next Rugby League World Cup is scheduled for 2013.