A Brief History of Rugby

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For some, rugby’s rough reputation is the draw-card. We’ve got 16 year old William Webb Ellis to thank for the thrilling game of rugby. During a football game, he picked up the ball and began running with it, ‘creating’ the game of rugby. Today in rugby, the only ways to gain ground and win are to run with the ball or kick it.

There are some people who are sceptical about the school boy story, but nonetheless, in 1863 the Football Association was formed to bring about standardization with the laws of the game.  The seeds for this thrilling fast-paced game were sewn and soon rugby clubs emerged throughout Britain.

  • In 1871 a meeting was held in London and 21 rugby clubs sent representatives to attend. The Rugby Football Union (RFU) was founded and the laws of the game were written by former Rugby pupils who had become lawyers.
  • In 1895, the Rugby Football Union voted against paying players for lost earnings. Because of this, a number of northern clubs broke away, forming the Northern Union. They allowed their players to be paid and also introduced changes to rules of the game.
  • It wasn’t until 1995, a century later, that the International Rugby Board accepted that Union players could be paid.
William Webb Ellis.jpg

William Webb Ellis

At First Everyone Could Join In

The actual game of rugby took a number of years to develop. The game started with no positions, and everyone could just join in and play.

It was in 1847 though, that a fixed number of players was agreed on – starting with 17 Forwards and 3 Full-Backs. The tackle was also developed, with holding and grappling with the opposing player becoming the main activity of the game.

The introduction of umpires and a referee came about in 1885.

The Intimidating Haka

The game of rugby is steeped in an illustrious history. We can see this with certain aspects of the game that aren’t even part of the actual game. A strong tradition of Maori culture is the Haka, and this just enhances the entire game of rugby.

It’s a traditional ancestral war dance, designed to challenge and intimidate the opposing team and which was first performed in 1888 and adopted by the All Blacks. It was in  2001 that the Maori All Blacks performed the Timatanga Haka for the first time.

Bring the Opposing Players Down

Rugby is a little bit like American football, with each team having 15 players, 8 reserves and the oval ball. The point of the game is to score tries by touching the ball down on the ground inside the other team’s goal line and scoring 5 points.

Rough and competitive, a tackle in rugby is a matter of having the ball touch the ground. Players have to bring the opposing player down with the ball and then make sure that the ball touches the ground. The scrums consist of some players arranged in a circle trying to get the ball.

Rugby is like a god in some countries and the Rugby World Cup, held every 4 years, is where top international teams battle it out to see which country will win.


Rugby World Cup – Which Country will make History?

In 1985 the first World Cup was launched and in 1987 it was hosted in Australia and New Zealand.  Japan will host the next Rugby World Cup in 2019 and France in 2013.

We can be thankful the game of rugby has evolved and developed the way it has, and with next year’s World Cup, we’ll all watch our countries line up, facing the packed grandstands and belting out their national anthems to the roars of the crowds.


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