The history of rugby league breaking away from its sister sport rugby union is a long a complex one and forms much of the history with regards to the formation of the sport. The split was one which was primarily related to financial issues. The many successful northern players, who played for northern teams often had working class professions, such as miners and labourers, and thus they were not very economically stable. However, southern players, who played for southern teams were much more financially stable, this lead to great contention between the north and the south when it came to rugby league.
Rugby league was to become a more amateur sport and they disagreed with the ethos of the ‘broken time payments’ that were given to players when they took time off work to participate in the sport. The Northern Rugby Football Union was formed and many of the poorer, primarily northern teams joined this association and thus rugby league was formed and rugby union continued as a different but very similar practice of the game. This split was not exclusive to the occurrences in the United Kingdom. A very similar thing occurred in Australia which lead to he New South Wales Rugby Football League being formed in 1907, roughly 10 years after the split had happened in the United Kingdom.
It took almost 50 years until the international tournament was established and in 1954 the first rugby world cup was held at Odsal Stadium in the English city of Bradford. The match was attended by over 100,000 people making it the most popular and well attended event of either rugby league or rugby union and thus the sport was solidified in popular culture, though still with quite a niche market. The world cup is still played to this day and the current champions are Australia.