The game of rugby is a kind of football played with an oval ball by two teams of either 15 (in rugby union play) or 13 players (in rugby league play) (in rugby league play).

Both union and league may trace their roots back to the kind of football that was played at School in England. Rugby union was developed from the game of rugby league. William Webb Ellis, a student at School in 1823, is said to have defied the conventions of the day (that the ball may only be kicked forward) to pick up the ball and run with it in a game, thereby creating the distinct handling game that is rugby football.

According to the folklore of the sport, this event is credited with the invention of rugby football. Around the same time as foundation myths were constructed for baseball and Australian rules football, this “historical” basis of the game was fully established by the early 1900s. Although it is known that Webb Ellis was a student at School at the time, there is no direct evidence of the actual event having taken place, though it was cited by the Old Rugbeian Society in an 1897 report on the origins of the game.

In addition, it is known that Webb Ellis was a student at School at the time. In spite of this, School, the institution whose name has been given to the sport, played an essential part in the evolution of rugby football. In 1845, it was at School that the first rules of the game that would later become rugby union football were formed.

Rugby is a sport that is today played in many different nations throughout the globe. Clubs and national teams can be found in countries as varied as Japan, Georgia, Uruguay, and Spain. One of the sports that is expanding at the quickest rate all around the globe is rugby for women.

The International Rugby Board (IRB; founded in 1886 as the International Rugby Football Board), headquartered in Dublin, boasted more than one hundred affiliated national unions at the turn of the 21st century. However, at the highest level of the sport, the traditional rugby powers of Australia, England, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, and Wales continued to dominate.


The Origin of Rugby Sport

Since the beginning of time, several versions of football have been played. (Please refer to the article football for more information on the history of football sports.) It’s possible that football games were played in Britain as early as the 1st century BCE, while the Romans were still in control of the country.

Football games played on Shrove Tuesday were yearly traditions in small towns during the 14th and 15th centuries CE. Many of these games survived far into the 19th century CE. These regional adaptations of folk football, which is a rough sport characterized by its large teams and lack of rules, gained popularity over time within the public and independent schools of England.

There, they were modified and adapted into one of two forms: a dribbling game, in which players primarily use their feet, which was popularized at Eton and Harrow; and a handling game, which was favored by Rugby, Marlborough, and Cheltenham. Both of these games were played with a ball

Many of the boys who attended School during this time period were crucial in the development of the sport of football, which was one of the games that was actively promoted at the institution by its famous headmaster Thomas Arnold (1828–42). Soon after its invention, rugby football established itself as one of the most important games in the development of English and, subsequently, British imperial manliness. Books by authors like Thomas Hughes, such as Tom Brown’s School Days, were used to extol the merits of the game (1857).

The public schools and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge were the epicenters of the resulting cult of manliness. It was there that young boys were sent to be educated on how to develop into young gentlemen. Schoolboys were required to participate in strenuous physical exercise as part of their education. By the late 19th century, rugby and cricket had emerged as the premier sports for cultivating the “civilized” macho behavior of the elite. It was often thought that playing rugby football fostered in the “muscular Christian” gentleman the characteristics of self-control, unselfishness, fearlessness, and working together with teammates. Former students of these public institutions as well as Oxford and Cambridge established the first football clubs, which ultimately led to the institutionalization of rugby.

The Progress That Has Been Made in the Game

Rugby quickly moved from its elite roots in England, Scotland, and Ireland to the middle-class and working-class males in the north of England and in Wales, as well as to the British colonies in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Rugby’s origins may be traced back to the 18th century. Additionally, it made its way to North America, where a new variant of football was developed from its original principles.

Northern Hemisphere

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) steadfastly opposed professionalism, cup competitions, and league play despite the fact that international between England and Scotland began almost immediately. This is in contrast to association football (soccer), which in the 1880s accepted player payments and league play. As soon as the six Scottish clubs learned that the RFU was being formed, they sent a challenge to it for a match to be played on March 27, 1871, in Scotland. The match was to take place in Scotland. The game was contested in front of 4,000 spectators, and each team managed to score a try throughout the competition; however, only Scotland was successful in converting their try into a goal (see below Play of the game). In 1875, Ireland began playing England, and in 1877, they started playing Scotland. The three different national teams eventually came to be known together as the “Home Nations.” It is important to note that club rugby matches in England did not become organized until the later decades of the 20th century; as a direct consequence of this, international matches took on a significance of their own.

Northern England and the Split

The game of rugby was played slightly differently in the north of England compared to the south of the country. As a result of the increased emphasis on teams as a source of municipal pride, league and cup competitions emerged rapidly in Yorkshire. By the middle of the 1880s, the game was popular among men from the working class in various sections of Yorkshire, Cumbria, and portions of Lancashire, where it had expanded. Northern teams led the campaign to get “broken time” compensation for its working-class players, who had to miss time from their jobs in order to play the game. Things came to a climax at a general meeting of the RFU in 1893, when the proposal to legalize broken time payments was severely denied by southern clubs, who held a majority of the votes. This brought the situation to a head. On August 29, 1895, in the town of Huddersfield in Yorkshire, England, 22 of the leading clubs in the north of England resigned from the RFU and created the Northern Rugby Football Union, which later evolved into the Rugby Football League in 1922. This event is known as the “Huddersfield Declaration.” The vast majority of teams in the north joined the Northern Union, but the organization was unable to successfully spread its sphere of influence to other parts of Britain.

Other countries

Argentina and the Pacific Island nations of Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga are three other countries besides New Zealand and Australia that have achieved a high degree of development. Rugby was first played in Argentina in the 1870s, and by the turn of the 20th century, four Buenos Aires-based clubs had created the River Plate Rugby Football Union to become the country’s governing body for the sport. The Pumas, Argentina’s national side, have a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most physically aggressive teams in the scrum. Although the Pacific Island nations of Samoa and Tonga did not begin playing rugby until the 1920s, the sport had been practiced in Fiji since the 1880s. The first test match ever played in the area took place in 1924 between Samoa (then known as Western Samoa) and Fiji. Although each of the three nations continues to place primary emphasis on their own national teams, beginning in the early 21st century, they also started playing together on occasion as a single squad representing the Pacific Islands.

The Modern Era

In the later decades of the 20th century, the rising sway of commercialism and television on rugby union and rugby league was felt in both forms of the sport. The creation and continuation of successful World Cup events served as a significant impetus for the vast expansion of rugby football in the decades running up to the beginning of the 21st century.

Organization and Competition

Rugby Union

The rapid adoption of rugby union across a large portion of the former British Empire resulted in the formation of the International Rugby Football Board in 1886. Since 1997, this organization has been known as the International Rugby Board or IRB. Its purpose was to establish the rules of the game and arbitrate any disagreements that arose between nations. The Rugby Football Union, together with the Scottish, Irish, and Welsh national unions, were the founding members of the organization. The Royal Rugby Union (RFU) possessed six seats on the board, whereas each of the other member unions held just two seats apiece. This was a typical imperial arrangement. In 1926, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa each received one seat when they joined the organization. When Argentina, Canada, Italy, and Japan became members in 1991, they were each given just one seat on the board of directors despite the fact that their representation had previously been modified to two seats each in 1958. The Worldwide Rugby Board (IRB) is the acknowledged international regulatory organization, and ever since it was established, it has been active in policing the game and making changes to the rules of the game.

Test matches, often known as international matches, are a series of two or more games played between national teams and have traditionally been regarded as the most prestigious form of rugby union. The pattern of international competition in union was established in 1888 when a British team traveled to New Zealand and Australia, and in 1891, an English squad traveled to South Africa. These tours marked the beginning of the pattern. Colonial rugby teams from New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia visited the British Isles for the first time in 1905, 1906, and 1912, respectively, marking the beginning of recognized national team tours to the region. The New Zealand national rugby union team stunned the British media in 1905 by winning every match leading up to their final Test match against Wales. They triumphed by 40 to 60 points against some of the best English sides. Near the conclusion of the New Zealanders’ trip, Wales defeated the All Blacks by a score of 3–0 in a close match, which brought some pride back to the Home countries. In 1906, the South African side, also known as the Springboks, embarked on their first tour, during which they achieved a roughly same level of success by claiming victory against Wales. The Australian team likewise performed very well in 1908 and was awarded the gold medal in the Olympic Games held in London.

Women and Rugby

During the 1990s, the sport of rugby was undergoing a simultaneous revolution at the same time as it was becoming more professionalized. Rugby participation became synonymous with learning to be a man in the public schools of England and the private schools in the settler societies of the British Empire; as a result, women were historically excluded from playing competitive rugby. This is because the relationship between masculinity and rugby has been passed down from fathers to sons. In the early 1920s, there was a failed effort to create a women’s rugby league in Sydney. However, similar to association football, women were generally not permitted to participate and were aggressively discouraged from doing so. This was also the case in most other forms of rugby.

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