Like any favorite pastime, the story of how it all began are more stories. Rugby, for instance, is said to be born in 1823 out of a game of football (or as Americans know it, soccer) when a player decided to abandon the rules and ran with the ball in hand. Whether true or false, the game of Rugby was born and the people love for it spread like wildfire.
Rules – While things always evolve, the rules written by Rugby School pupils in 1845 are surprisingly similar to todays rules. Early rules includes the notion of offside, running a ball out of “touch,” and banning of forward passes. One notable difference, however, is the number of players in a game. Today, there is a maximum of 30 players on the field, 15 per team. Another significant difference is the focal point: modern players aim to score, whereas players in the 1800s put far more focus into kicking. While traditional rules promoted “hacking,” or the kicking and tripping of an opponent’s legs, this was soon banned and shoulder tackles eventually replaced hacking.
Governing Bodies – Although the Rugby School had written rules in 1845, it wasn’t until 1871 that the Rugby Football Union was established to create a code of rules in England and across the world. The International Rugby Board was founded 15 years later, in 1886, to govern the laws of rugby for all participating nations.
Split – In 1895, arguably the biggest change to the game of rugby emerged as an argument about player payment transpired that resulted in 12 northern England teams splitting from the Rugby Union to create their own league. Today different forms and versions included Rugby Union, the Rugby League, and Rugby Sevens.
Trophies and Competitions – Both Union and League Rugby has developed several competitions since the start of the sport. One competition, coined the Calcutta Cup, puts old rivals against each other, such as England and Scotland. The annual Six Nations Trophy is one of the largest competitions with French, Italian, English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh teams competing. And most recently (1987), the first Rugby World Cup was hosted by Australia and New Zealand, with New Zealand taking the inaugural Webb Ellis Cup.