St. david's press

October 2015




978 1 902719 443

Large Format Paperback

140 illustrations/photos



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St.David's Press


The King's Cup 1919  

Rugby's First 'World Cup'

Howard Evans & Phil Atkinson

'An intriguing retelling of a significant but largely forgotten chapter of rugby union history, superbly illustrated.'
Huw Richards, author of ‘A Game for Hooligans: The History of Rugby Union

'an engaging and enjoyable insight into rugby’s international competitive history from two writers with a deep love and admiration for the game. It is visually a delight ... this is a fascinating book deserving of a wide audience.'
Darryl Leeworthy, Journal of Sport History

'Howard is an authority on rugby's history and meticulous in his research'
Andy Howell, Rugby Correspondent, Western Mail


The world of rugby celebrated the 8th Rugby World Cup in 2015, but a tournament held in 1919, The King’s Cup, can rightly claim to be rugby’s first competitive ‘World Cup’.

Meticulously compiled by Howard Evans and Phil Atkinson, The King’s Cup 1919, is the first book to tell the story of rugby’s first ‘World Cup’ and is essential reading for all rugby enthusiasts and military historians.

With over 140 photos and illustrations, and chapters focusing on the competing teams, the players, and every game in the tournament, the authors have provided a comprehensive and attractive record of a long-forgotten but historically important competition that most rugby supporters are completely unaware of.

  At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, all rugby was suspended by decree of the individual rugby unions, with only inter-military    encounters and fundraising games permitted. After the Armistice in  November 1918, with the armies of the world’s rugby-playing nations still stationed in Britain, and with the public desperate to see competitive rugby played again, an inter-military tournament was organised.

King George V was so enthused by the proposed competition that he agreed to have the tournament named after him, and so The King’s Cup was born.  

The King’s Cup 1919: Rugby's First 'World Cup'

· Explains the British military’s decision to create a 'Mother Country' team rather than allow separate teams for England, Wales, Scotland & Ireland

· Explains how the Royal Navy were invited to compete but were forced to decline

· Confirmed the status of New Zealand as the dominant rugby-playing nation

· Saw the first competitive game between teams representing New Zealand and South Africa

· Shows the origins of apartheid South Africa’s refusal to accept black players in opposing teams


Howard Evans is a respected rugby writer, who was for many years a rugby correspondent for the South Wales Echo and Western Mail.

Phil Atkinson is a retired headmaster and history teacher, and is Editor of ‘Touchlines’ the magazine of the Rugby Memorabilia Society.

1. Rugby in Wartime
2. The Armistice: Rugby Resumes, 1918-19
3. The King’s Cup
4. The Teams:

   4.1 Australia
    4.2 Canada
   4.3 France
   4.4 Mother Country
   4.5 New Zealand
    4.6 Royal Air Force
   4.7 South Africa
5. The Tournament:
      Game 1: New Zealand v RAF
      Game 2: Mother Country v Australia
      Game 3: South Africa v RAF
    Game 4: New Zealand v Canada
     Game 5: Australia v South Africa
      Game 6: Mother Country v RAF
    Game 7: South Africa v Canada
      Game 8: Mother Country v Canada
    Game 9: RAF v Australia
    Game 10: New Zealand v South Africa
    Game 11: New Zealand v Mother Country
    Game 12: Australia v Canada
    Game 13: New Zealand v Australia
    Game 14: RAF v Canada
      Game 15: Mother Country v South Africa
    The Play-Off Match: New Zealand v Mother Country
The Challenge Match: New Zealand v France
6. The King’s Cup Winners are Challenged by Wales
7. Home to New Zealand via Segregated South Africa
Postscript: From the Trenches to the Playing Fields
Appendix: Other Rugby Fixtures of Note: Jan to May 1919  

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