The Gentleman's Game: An alternate History of Rugby Football

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Road to 1934

As soon as the 1930 World Cup was over, the road to the 1934 World Cup in Sweden [1] began; while South Africa won their second consecutive African Cup in 1932, the Asian Cup was won by China, who beat the previous champions Australia 2-1 in Beijing; the 1934 editions of the American and European cups saw, for the first time, the participation of 16 teams with, respectively, 5 and 7 qualification spots available.

In the American Cup, the teams that made it to the quarterfinals were Argentina and Uruguay, Brazil and Costa Rica, the United States and Paraguay, Cuba and Canada; Argentina beat Costa Rica 3-0, Uruguay beat Cuba 6-0, the United States beat Paraguay 3-1 and Canada beat Brazil 1-0; in the semifinals, Argentina beat Uruguay 2-1, while the United States beat Canada 5-2, going on to win their second American Cup by defeating Argentina 1-0, with Brazil winning their qualification playoff match.

In the European Cup, the teams that made it to the quarterfinals and the World Cup were Italy and Austria, England and Spain, Scotland and Bohemia, Hungary and Wales, the teams faced themselves in this order, with Italy, England, Scotland and Hungary going to the semifinals, where England beat Italy 3-0 and Scotland beat Hungary 3-2. The all-British final saw the English finally prevail over the Scots, 4-2, winning their first ever international trophy.

[1] They made a bid in OTL.
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Percival Molson stadium, in Montreal, Quebec, host of the knockout stages.
amidst a global economic recession, the 1931 rugby world cup took place in canada after bids from France, argentina and wales were withdrawn due to the recession. many of the usual suspects qualified for the tournament, though two new nations made their debut: one was the Serbian team, who qualified by overcoming a 6 point deficit against spain in the last two matches of the nations league, as well as Chile, who stunned Uruguay in the Americas cup to qualify. also of note is the return of Romania in the competition. can Romania run wild again?

GROUP A at Varsity Stadium, toronto


wales 12 - 3 France
Canada 12 - 20 south africa
Wales 14 - 6 Canada
France 20 - 17 south africa
Canada 17-9 france
Wales 9 - 12 south africa
Wales 17 - 17 france
Canada 12 - 24 south africa
Wales 12 - 9 canada
south Africa 6 vs 12 france
Canada 9 vs 9 france
Wales 7 vs 14 south africa

south Africa 8
Wales 7
France 6
canada 3

the host nation disappointed massively, while France almost pulled out an upset, but a draw against Canada allowed defending world champions Wales to qualify.

GROUP B At lansdowne park, Ottawa, Ontario
Australia 24 - 6 argentina
England 9 - 12 Romania
Australia 23 - 3Romania
England 19 vs 6 argentina
England 9 vs 9 Australia
Romania 12 vs 12argentina
Australia win vs Argentina
England win vs romania
Australia win vs romania
England vs win argentina
Australia win vs England
Argentina win vs romania

Australia 11
England 5
Argentina 5
Romania 3

elimination match
England vs win argentina

in a massive upset, Argentina rallies in the second half to win the tiebreaker against finalists England!

GROUP C at civic stadium, Hamilton, Ontario

new zealand win - Ireland
Chile win - Italy
new zealand win vs chile
Ireland draw italy
new zealand win vs italy
Ireland win vs chile
new zealand draw ireland
Italy win vs chile
new zealand win vs chile
Italy draw ireland
new zealand draw italy
Ireland vs win chile

new zealand 10
Ireland 5
Italy 5
Chile 4

elimination match

Ireland vs win italy

an up-and-down group stage proved to be the downfall for the Irish, and the competitive upset loss against Italy was an all-time low for them.

GROUP D At Rosedale field, toronto
Scotland - win Tonga
Serbia win- United states
Scotland win vs serbia
United states draw tonga
Scotland win vs united states
Serbia vs win tonga
Scotland win vs tonga
United states win vs Serbia
Scotland win vs serbia
United states win vs tonga
Scotland vs win united states
Serbia vs win Tonga

Scotland 8
United states 7
Tonga 7
Serbia 2

elimination match
United States win vs tonga

while Scotland recovered form their shocking defeat of Tonga, the US, who is in a rebuilding period following the retirements of many of its world cup-winning players, saw themselves losing to both Serbia and Tonga, forced to compete in an elimination match against the latter, where they thrashed them.

KNOCKOUT STAGES AT Percival Molson stadium, Montreal, Quebec.

United states vs win Wales
Argentina vs win south Africa
new zealand win vs Scotland
Italy vs win australia

the Welsh once again beats the Americans, woth him Sullivan scoring all field goals, while south Africa ate Argentina whole. the all-blacks would win a very competitive affair against the Scots, while Australia would stop a rally from the azzura.

Wales win vs south Africa (Double extra time)
new zealand vs win australia

in a double extra time thriller, jim Sullivan would score a crucial try at the last minute to send Wales to its second world cup final! and in a highly-spirited, very offensive affair, the wallabies outscored their fierce rivals to punch their ticket to their first finals!

Wales win vs australia

a true masterclass from the Welsh defense, as the dragons prevented australia from scoring any points, while jim Sullivan scored all 4 wales filed goals. the Welsh wins their second consecutive rugby world cup, and Sullivan once again is named player of the tournament. it seems nothing is gonna stop big jim and the Welsh anytime soon...

Jim Sullivan. Chicago Lions star, Wales star, and now, the best player in the world.

He's probably still a school teacher, here.

The 1934 FIFA World Cup in Sweden was severely impacted by the Great Depression - the Habsburg representatives had to call it quits due to trouble at home, as the monarchy ripped apart at the seams due to the nationalist tendencies of several of its constituent regions (Serbia's entry in the Rugby World Cup having been a small taste of things to come), and even South Africa had to withdraw from the tournament, as the brief British flirtation with their plan to turn the Empire into a collection of dominions had proven to be too little, too late - with unrest finding its way into Mittelafrika as well, and Canada having to part with its four Caribbean provinces after one too many race riots at home.

The tournament was therefore disputed with a format not unlike that of the first World Cups, with 4 groups of 3 - except, two teams were to qualify to the knockout stage instead of just one. Group A saw hosts Sweden barely get into the knockout stage after a disappointing draw with the debuting Chinese representative, with Italy giving a similarly underwhelming performance in Group B.

Group A - China, Sweden, Uruguay - Landskrona IP

Sweden 2-5 Uruguay
China 2-2 Sweden
China 0-6 Uruguay

4 Uruguay
1 Sweden
1 China

Group B - Brazil, Italy, Wales - Arosvallen

Brazil 1-0 Italy
Brazil 3-1 Wales
Brazil 1-1 Wales

4 Brazil
1 Italy
1 Wales

It was a tournament to forget for the North American teams, especially the United States - whose political climate back at home, due to the Great Depression, was not exactly an ideal one. Group C and Group D saw, respectively, Scotland and Spain, Argentina and England qualify to the knockout stage.

Group C - Canada, Scotland, Spain - Stockholms Stadion

Canada 0-5 Scotland
Canada 3-3 Spain
Scotland 0-0 Spain

2 Scotland
1 Spain
1 Canada

Group D - Argentina, England, United States - Derbybanan Jägersro

5-2 England
Argentina 2-0 United States
England 2-1 United States

4 Argentina
2 England
0 United States

Sweden, after knocking Brazil out of the competition, had to yield to a far superior Spanish team, while Angelo Schiavio and Giuseppe Meazza finally woke up, obliterating the competition and taking Italy to the final.


Argentina 0-2 Spain
Brazil 1-2 Sweden
England 1-3 Scotland
4-2 Uruguay


2-0 Scotland
Spain 4-0 Sweden

Two goals each by Martì Ventolrà and Guillermo Gorostiza gave Spain their first World Cup, possibly because the bald guy in the above picture was not there to influence the match's referee.

3rd place match and final

3-0 Sweden

Italy 3-4 Spain
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Berlin's olympiastadion, built for the upcoming Olympics, but opened in time to host both the 1935 rugby world cup and 1938 FIFA world cup knockout stages

despite being by far the world's leading superpower, Germany hasn't made any bids to host big time sporting events since the end of the great war. all of that would change in the 1930s, as they successfully bidded to host the 1936 summer olympics as well as hosting both the 1935 rugby world cup and, following the withdrawal of France's bid due to lack of financial resources, the 1938 FIFA world cup. while the Germans have a long way to go to even crack the top 10 european nations in both sports, the kaiserreich hopes that those events would be the first step in a massive plan to improve Germany's fortunes in sports.

GROUP A at Rudolf-Kalweit-Stadion, hannover
Germany vs win England
Canada win vs Samoa
Germany draw canada
England win vs samoa
England draw canada
Germany vs win Samoa
England draw Germany
Canada draw samoa
Canada vs win germany
England win vs samoa
England win vs canada
Germany vs win samoa

England 10
Canada 5
Samoa 5
Germany 4

Elimination match
Canada win vs samoa

England had an easy group stage campaign, while a surprise loss to the host nation forced Canada to play an elimination match against a surprisingly good Samoan team, eith the maple leaves thrashing them.

GROUP B at Grünwalder Stadion, munich
New Zealand win vs Scotland
Uruguay win vs France
new zealand win vs france
Scotland win vs uruguay
new zealand win vs uruguay
Scotland vs win france
new zealand win vs scotland
France vs win uruguay
new zealand vs win france
Scotland win vs uruguay
new zealand draw Uruguay
Scotland vs win france

new zealand 9
France 6
Uruguay 5
Scotland 4

in a group where seemingly nobody wanted to qualify, two wins against the disappointing Scots and a huge upset against the all-blacks allows France to qualify!

GROUP C at Waldstadion, frankfurt
Wales draw Australia
Belgium draw Argentina
Wales win vs argentina
Australia win vs belgium
Wales vs win belgium
Australia win vs argentina
Wales draw australia
Argentina draw belgium
Wales vs win argentina
Australia draw belgium
Wales vs win belgium
Australia draw Argentina

australia 8
Belgium 7
Argentina 5
Wales 4

in one of the biggest shocks of the decade, Belgium wins both games against the reigning champions Wales and draw against Australia to punch their tickets to the quarters!

GROUP D at Sportplatz am Rothenbaum, Hamburg
United States vs win Ireland
Italy vs win South Africa
United States vs win south africa
Italy draw Ireland
United states win vs Italy
Ireland draw south africa
United states win vs Ireland
Italy vs win south africa
United states vs win south africa
Ireland win vs italy
United states vs win italy
Ireland vs win south africa

South Africa 11
Ireland 6
United States 4
Italy 3

finally, after years of disappointment on the biggest stage, Ireland qualifies for the knockout stages at the expense of a still rebuilding US team.

knockout stages at Olympiastadion, berlin

Canada vs win south Africa
New Zealand win vs Belgium
Australia win vs Ireland
England vs win france

while the springboks would beat the canucks in a surprisingly competitive matchup, the all-blacks would thrash the Belgians, while Australia would comfortably win against the Irish and the French stuns England in a physical battle!

south Africa vs win new zealand
Australia vs win france (triple extra time)

in perhaps the most competitive matchup of the whole tournament, new zealand stops south Africa from rallying in the second half to punch their ticket to their second world cup final,while France would beat a battered and bruised Australian side with a last gap try in triple extra time! after the match, the IRB announced that, from now on, a penalty shootout will take place after 2 periods of extra time.

new zealand vs win france

in one of the most dramatic and shocking upset in rugby history, France took advantage of a controversial red card from the all blacks to score two tries en route to a miracle world cup victory in front of the same country that screwed them over in the great war! now ain't that a huge middle finger!

pretty much every single German in attendance at the olympiastadion after the final


This didn't last.

The 1936 continental cups, just like the previous World Cup, were played under the shadow of the Great Depression, with many teams declining to take part in them for some reason or another; the colonial troubles of the United Kingdom resulted in the creation of a three-tiered British Empire, with the United Kingdom of Great Britain at the center, the white dominions (Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand) as members of the Imperial Federation [1], and all the other colonies as members of the Imperial Commonwealth [2]; Egypt joined the organization in 1938, the same year in which the very short-lived United States of Greater Austria (one could compare the 1936 reform of the Habsburg realm to the ill-fated Polish-Lithuanian constitution that preceded the Partitions of Poland) dissolved into their constituent states - becoming part of the Kaiserreich-led Mitteleuropa.

The African Cup saw South Africa qualify for the World Cup yet again - a World Cup that was to take place in Argentina for the second time [3] - while the Asian Cup saw yet another triumph by China; the eight European teams to qualify for the World Cup directly were Italy, Spain, England and Scotland (who headed their respective groups) as well as Wales, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands. The Habsburg teams were not able to take part in the tournament at all, due to the aforementioned internal and external (the fallout of the restoration of the Montenegrin and Serbian kingdoms under their old dynasties) issues.

Quarterfinals - European Cup

4-0 Netherlands
Norway 2-8 Spain
1-0 Germany [4]
Scotland 2-0 Wales

Semifinals - European Cup

3-1 Italy
Scotland 0-2 Spain

3rd Place Match and Final - European Cup

Italy 2-4 Scotland

England 1-3 Spain

The American Cup, on the other hand, was won by Canada, that beat South American titans Argentina through a penalty shoot-out; the United States and Uruguay made it to the semifinals, with Brazil and the formerly Canadian Windward Islands also qualifying, with a team in which players of the American and Canadian leagues made up the entirety of the squad.

[1] Far less centralized than the OTL Imperial Federation proposal, and more along the lines of a proto-European Union.
[2] Basically the Commonwealth of Nations, only the name is different.
[3] In OTL, France was chosen over Argentina, leading to many South American teams boycotting the tournament.
[4] Match suspended after 20 minutes due to a riot in the stands.
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England's 1938 run, colorized.

1938 was the year of the Anschluss of the provinces of German Austria, German Bohemia and German Moravia into the Kaiserreich as the Kingdom of Austria, the House of Habsburg finally managing to obtain the royal title they'd been chasing for the last few centuries, except not in the way they'd hoped. [1] The rest of the short-lived United States of Greater Austria was either annexed by neighbouring countries aligned with Mitteleuropa (Italy got Trieste and coastal Istria, Hohenzollern-led Romania got Transylvania, Poland got West Galicia, Ukraine got East Galicia) or granted independence as Habsburg-led kingdoms (Carniola, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia). [2]

The hosts, Argentina, were drawn into Group A alongside Germany, Norway and the Netherlands; the defending champions, Spain, were drawn into Group B alongside Brazil, Wales and China. Group C included Italy, England, Canada and the Windward Islands, while Group D included Scotland, Uruguay, the United States and South Africa.

Group A - Argentina, Germany, Netherlands, Norway

4-3 Germany
Netherlands 2-0 Norway

Argentina 6-0 Norway
Germany 2-2 Netherlands

Argentina 5-2 Netherlands
Germany 0-1 Norway

6 Argentina
3 Netherlands
2 Norway
1 Germany

The inclusion of a few Austrian players did not do the Kaiser's team any favours. [3]

Group B - Brazil, China, Spain, Wales

7-1 China
Spain 3-0 Wales

Brazil 2-0 Wales
Spain 5-0 China

Brazil 1-3 Spain
China 0-4 Wales

6 Spain
4 Brazil
2 Wales
0 China

No surprises in Group B.

Group C - Canada, England, Italy, Windward Islands

1-0 England
Italy 2-3 Windward Islands

3-0 Windward Islands
Italy 0-0 England

Canada 2-5 Italy
2-0 Windward Islands

4 Canada
3 Italy
3 England
2 Windward Islands

Neither Canada's victory over England and the Windward Islands' victory over Italy were expected, but England bowing out of the World Cup at the group stage became a national humiliation of the highest order, with coach Winterbottom losing his life at the hands of a drunken pub customer only a month later.

Group D - Scotland, South Africa, United States, Uruguay

10-2 South Africa
United States 3-1 Uruguay

United States 2-2 South Africa
Scotland 6-3 Uruguay

South Africa 0-0 Uruguay
Scotland 2-1 United States

6 Scotland
3 United States
2 South Africa
1 Uruguay

England, at least, did better than Uruguay.


3-1 Spain
Argentina 2-0 Brazil
Canada 1-0 United States
Italy 3-5 Scotland

The quarterfinals' surprise was Spain's exit from the World Cup at the hands of the Netherlands, who hadn't been featured in the tournament in quite a while.


Argentina 2-4 Netherlands
1-0 Scotland

The upsets just kept coming, as the Netherlands eliminated the host team, and the American champions beat Scotland.

3rd Place Match and Final

Argentina 6-3 Scotland

Canada 2-4 Netherlands

At the Estadio River Plate in Buenos Aires, the Dutch team coached by Bob Glendenning dashed Canada's hopes of repeating Spain's streak of two international titles in a row. Soon afterwards, Germany's bid to host the 1942 World Cup went forward. [4]

[1] Some AH irony here. :p
[2] Borders not exactly as in OTL, mostly in favour of Austria, who's got Brunn and Pressburg, for example, and Hungary, that's got Szeklerland and Vojvodina.
[3] Some things never change. U_U
[4] No war will happen to ruin the party this time.

Sydney's cricket ground, host of the 1939 rugby world cup knockout stages. brace yourselves, mates, cause the wallabies will make you cry.
after spending much of the decade going through the great depression and a period of social unrest, Australia thankfully recovered both on the financial and social front and, by the end of the 30s, they were back to being healthy enough to host the 1939 version of the rugby world cup. with the host nation, new zealand and a promising Samoa side, there are plenty of teams that the australasian rugby fans could cheer for. the wallabies and the all blacks, especially,had all the pressure in the world. the first for obvious reasons, the second because the kiwis don't wanna be labeled as chokers after losing two world cup finals.

GROUP A AT north Sydney oval
Australia vs win France
Romania vs win russia
Australia draw russia
France win vs romania
Australia win vs Romania
France vs win russia
Australia vs win France
Romania vs win russia
Australia win vs russia
France win vs romania
Australia vs win romania
France win vs russia

France 10
Russia 7
australia 6
Romania 2

the entire nation was shocked by the poor play of their wallabies, and a loss to the Romaniacs running wild allowed Russia to qualify for the quarters, beating reigning world champions France in the process!

GROUP B At Melbourne cricket ground
new zealand win vs Canada
Wales vs win south africa
New Zealand vs win south Africa
Wales win vs canada
New Zealand win vs Wales
Canada win vs south africa
New Zealand win vs canada
Wales vs win south Africa
New Zealand vs win south africa
Canada draw wales
Canada vs win south africa
Wales vs win new zealand

deep in the heartland of Aussie rules football, there was no surprises in this group, as both Canada and Wales are going through a rebuilding phase.

GROUP C at Lang park, Brisbane, Queensland
United States draw Spain
Samoa vs win ireland
United states draw ireland
Spain vs win samoa
United states vs win samoa
Ireland win vs spain
United states vs win spain
Ireland win vs samoa
United states draw ireland
Spain vs win samoa
United states win vs samoa
Ireland vs win spain

Ireland 8
Samoa 6
Spain 5
United states 5

in the tightest group of the tournament, Ireland barely topped the group, while the damp and would stun the Americans and the Basque-Catalan all-star team that composed the returning Spain to qualify! to this day, this unexpected qualification is still celebrated in all of Samoa.

GROUP D at Perth oval
Italy vs win England
Argentina vs win scotland
Italy draw scotland
England vs win argentina
England vs win scotland
Italy win vs argentina
England win vs italy
Scotland win vs argentina
England win vs argentina
Scotland win vs italy
Italy vs win argentina
England vs win scotland

Scotland 11
England 6
Argentina 4
Italy 3

Scotland looked like a team that could go all the way, while England managed to recover from a poor start to qualify.

KNOCKOUT STAGES AT Sydney cricket ground

England vs win south Africa
Russia vs win Scotland
Samoa vs win France
Ireland vs win new zealand

the springboks beat England with a last minute drop goal in a very tight affair, while the other games were complete blowouts, the Irish being choked by the all Blake's incessant pressing.

south Africa win vs Scotland
New Zealand win vs france

in two very physical, defensive games, the springboks scores one try and two field goals to beat the Scotsmen while new zealand avenged their loss against the French 4 years ago to reach another final.


south Africa vs win new zealand (Double extra time)

in a thriller, the springboks and the all-blacks delivered an offensive showcase that went into double extra time, where tiredness and conceding stupid penalties allowed the all blacks to score a try and a drop goal to finally win their first world cup in front of thousands of Maoris and kiwi fans who traveled to sydney by boat to cheer their team!


WARNING: since @Neoteros most likely won't be available due to the current situation in Italy, I plan on temporarily take over the soccer parts of this TL. don't worry, I will plan the soccer parts with his advices.