1985–1988 Rugby League World Cup

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1985–1988 (1985–1988) World Cup  ()
Number of teams 5
Winner  Australia (6th title)

Matches played 18
Attendance 218,246 (12,125 per match)
Points scored 769 (42.72 per match)
Top scorer Australia Michael O'Connor (74)
Top try scorer Australia Michael O'Connor (6)
 < 1977

The 1985–1988 Rugby League World Cup was the ninth Rugby League World Cup tournament held and saw yet another change of format. The competition was stretched to cover almost three years (1985 to 1988), with teams playing each other on a home and away basis. These matches were fitted into the normal international programme of three-match test series between the nations, with a pre-designated match from each series counting as the world cup fixture.

The competition was further altered by the addition of a new nation, Papua New Guinea.[1] The Kumuls performed creditably, particularly when playing in the front of their fiercely patriotic home crowd. Conversely, France were unable to fulfil their 1987 tour of Australasia due to financial difficulties, and had to forfeit away fixtures against Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

At the end of four years, Australia finished top of the table, and, through a victory over Great Britain in Christchurch, the Kiwis qualified to host the final. Unfortunately for them, home advantage was not enough for New Zealand, who went down 12–25 to the seemingly invincible Australians.



7 July
New Zealand  18–0  Australia
Carlaw Park, Auckland
Attendance: 15,327
9 November
Great Britain  6–6  New Zealand
Headingley, Leeds
Attendance: 22,209
7 December
France  0–22  New Zealand
Stade Gilbert Brutus, Perpignan
Attendance: 5,000


16 February
France  10–10  Great Britain
Parc des Sports, Avignon
Attendance: 4,000
29 July
Australia  32–12  New Zealand
Lang Park, Brisbane
Attendance: 22,811
17 August
Papua New Guinea  24–22  New Zealand
Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby
Attendance: 15,000
4 October
Papua New Guinea  12–62  Australia
Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby
Attendance: 17,000

This match was the third Test of the 1986 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France's Ashes series.

22 November
Great Britain  15–24  Australia
Central Park, Wigan
Attendance: 20,169
Referee: J. Rascagneres

This was the final Test match of the 1986 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France.

13 December
France  0–52  Australia


24 January
Great Britain  52–4  France
Headingley, Leeds
Attendance: 6,567
24 October
Great Britain  42–0  Papua New Guinea
Central Park, Wigan
Attendance: 9,121
15 November
France  21–4  Papua New Guinea


22 May
Papua New Guinea  22-42  Great Britain
Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby
Attendance: 12,107

The victory lifted Great Britain above New Zealand into second place on the World Cup table on eight points – one ahead of the Kiwis.[2]

9 July
Australia  12–26  Great Britain
Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney
Attendance: 15,944

This was the end of a 15-match winning streak for the Australians,[3] and Great Britain's first Test victory over the Kangaroos since their 18–14 win at Odsal during the 1978 Kangaroo tour, as well as their first win in Australia for 18 years. It also put Great Britain on top of the World Cup points table.[4]

10 July
New Zealand  66–14  Papua New Guinea
Carlaw Park, Auckland
Attendance: 8,392
17 July
New Zealand  12-10  Great Britain

The last group stage match for both teams turned out to be a sudden death battle for a spot in the final. For New Zealand nothing less than a win would get them to the Final while Great Britain only needed a draw. It was also the last Test match of the 1988 Great Britain Lions tour. The Kiwis victory meant they qualified to face Australia in the final at Eden Park, Auckland.

20 July
Australia  66–14  New Zealand
Eric Weissel Oval, Wagga Wagga
Attendance: 11,685

Australia's 62-point win set a new record for largest winning margin in international rugby league. Winger Michael O'Connor also set a new record for most points scored by an individual in international rugby league.[5] The sellout crowd of 11,685 also set a ground attendance record at Wagga Wagga's Eric Weissel Oval.[6]

Tournament standings

Team Played Won Drew Lost For Against Difference Points
 Australia 7 5 0 2 252 91 +161 121
 New Zealand 7 4 1 2 158 86 +72 111
 Great Britain 8 4 2 2 203 90 +113 10
 Papua New Guinea 7 1 0 6 84 325 −241 41
 France 5 1 1 3 35 140 −105 3

1Received two points for non-fulfilment of fixtures by France in 1987

World Cup Final

9 October 1988
New Zealand  12 – 25  Australia
Tony Iro
Kevin Iro

Peter Brown (2)
Allan Langer (2)
Gavin Miller
Dale Shearer
Michael O'Connor (4)
Field Goal:
Ben Elias
Eden Park, Auckland
Attendance: 47,363[7]
Referee/s: Graham Ainui Papua New Guinea
Man of the Match: Gavin Miller File:Australian colours.svg
New Zealand Position Australia
Gary Mercer Fullback Garry Jack
Tony Iro Wing Dale Shearer
Kevin Iro Centre Andrew Farrar
Dean Bell (c) Centre Mark McGaw
Mark Elia Wing Michael O'Connor
Gary Freeman Five-Eighth Wally Lewis (c)
Clayton Friend Halfback Allan Langer
Peter Brown Prop Paul Dunn
Wayne Wallace Hooker Ben Elias
Adrian Shelford Prop Steve Roach
Mark Graham Second Row Paul Sironen
Kurt Sorensen Second Row Gavin Miller
Mark Horo Lock Wayne Pearce
Shane Cooper Res. David Gillespie
Sam Stewart Res. Terry Lamb
Tony Gordon Coach Don Furner

The 1985–1988 Rugby League World Cup saw New Zealand play Australia in the World Cup final, the culmination of four years of competition. The Final was played at the spiritual home of rugby union in New Zealand, Auckland's Eden Park. It was the first time that rugby league had been played at the ground since 1919. The final attracted the highest ever crowd for a rugby league match in New Zealand of 47,363 (only 672 less than had attended the 1987 Rugby World Cup Final at the venue).[8] Australia had won the right to host the final, but in the interests of promoting the game, and because attendances for internationals played in Australia had been dwindling for over a decade due to the Kangaroos dominance, the ARL agreed to move the game to New Zealand. Prior to kick-off Graham Brazier performed the New Zealand national anthem.

Despite Australia's successful Ashes defence against Great Britain earlier in the year, the inexperience of the Australian World Cup Final team (and because NZ had defeated Australia in their previous encounter in a one-off test in Brisbane in 1987), saw the hosts actually go into the match as favourites in the eyes of many critics. However, the Wally Lewis led Kangaroos, boasting veteran test players Garry Jack, Dale Shearer, Michael O'Connor, Steve Roach, Paul Dunn, Wayne Pearce, and Terry Lamb, along with 1986 Kangaroos Ben Elias and Paul Sironen, mixed with newer international players Mark McGaw, Allan Langer, Gavin Miller, Andrew Farrar and David Gillespie, triumphed over the ill-disciplined Kiwis, who at least made sure the victorious Australians were bloodied and bruised for their victory lap. For the Kiwis, the Iro brothers Tony and Kevin, Gary Freeman, Clayton Friend, Mark Graham, Adrian Shelford, Kurt Sorensen and captain Dean Bell dished out the punishment.

Interestingly, despite Queensland having won the State of Origin series 3–0 over New South Wales earlier in the year, the Maroons only supplied three of Australia's 15 players for the World Cup Final. Captain Wally Lewis (who broke his right forearm in the 15th minute of the game while tackling Tony Iro), Dale Shearer and Allan Langer. Lewis later claimed that it was the same as had been the case since Origin started in 1980, Qld wins the series but it was mainly NSW players picked for Australia.


  1. Paddy McAteer (22 December 2010) "Whole World in their Hands" North West Evening Mail
  2. "Schofield too hot for PNG". 22 May 1988. Retrieved 14 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Baker, Andrew (20 August 1995). "100 years of rugby league: From the great divide to the Super era". Independent, The. independent.co.uk. Retrieved 25 September 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Best of British shocks Aussies". Evening Times. 9 July 1988. Retrieved 1 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "O'Connor helps set Test records". The Age. 21 July 1988. Retrieved 18 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Rugby League World Cup – Roo Tour Memories: Allan Langer". broncos.com.au. 18 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. RLWC 1985 – 1988: Australia at RLIF.co.uk
  8. BBC Sport – Rugby league – England to face New Zealand in 2010 Four Nations opener

External links