REVIEW: The Rugby League World Cup, by Tim Butcher and Malcolm Andrews

Neil Barraclough

Originally published after the 2000 Rugby League World Cup, and updated after New Zealand’s stunning triumph in 2008, League Publications have produced another triumph for anyone interested in the history of the greatest game.

Starting with the first World Cup back in 1954, when Scotsman Dave Valentine lifted the trophy for a Great Britain side widely written off before their exploits in France, Tim Butcher and Malcolm Andrews expertly guide us through each of the 13 Rugby League World Cups.

And while The Rugby League World Cup has a comprehensive stats and results section, it still brings to life some of the human stories involved with rugby league’s most significant tournament.

From French league president Paul Barriere’s initial idea in 1952, through to the Kiwis’ shock win in Brisbane in 2008, the full details of each competition are laid bare in magnificent detail.

Take that 1954 British win, for example, when Valentine’s side became the first from the UK to be crowned World Cup winners in any sport, anywhere.

“The enormity of what the GB team achieved can never be overstated. But for the game as a whole, the spoils were even greater. As well as seeing over 30,000 people in Paris… the final was televised live in the United Kingdom.

The impact of that was enormous, as one of the very first sporting events to be beamed back live from the continent, and most certainly the very first occasion, in any sport, that a British team had been seen in action on foreign soil in a World Cup final.”

Fast forward 34 years, and it was Australian centre Andrew Farrar who was making history – although he didn’t know it at the time.

Farrar, who spent a season with Wigan in 1992-93, made his only international appearance during the Kangaroos’ 1988 World Cup final win over New Zealand; if you’re going to be a one-cap wonder, you might as well pick your moment.

Now, with all eyes now focused on the 2013 Rugby League World Cup – a 14-team competition to be staged in England and Wales – we are left to wonder who will write the next chapter of this groundbreaking tournament’s history.

The Rugby League World Cup′, by Tim Butcher and Malcolm Andrews, is out now. ISBN 978-1901347203, published by League Publications Ltd. It is available to buy here.