Rugby Union

Short History

     The origin of rugby football is reputed to be an incident during a game of English school football at Rugby School in 1823, when William Webb Ellis is said to have picked up the ball and run with it. Although the evidence for the story is doubtful, it was immortalised at the school with a plaque unveiled in 1895 and the Rugby World Cup trophy is named after Webb Ellis. Rugby football stems from the form of the game played at Rugby School, which former pupils then introduced to their university. Forms of traditional football similar to rugby have been played throughout Europe and beyond. Many of these involved handling of the ball, and scrummaging formations. For example, Australia had marn grook, Japan kemari, Georgia lelo burti, Central Italy Calcio Fiorentino...
     A significant event in the early development of rugby football was the production of the first written laws of the game at Rugby School in 1845, which was followed by the Cambridge Rules drawn up in 1848. Other important events include the sixth meeting of the Football Association, in 1863, and the Blackheath Club's decision to leave the FA, explaining that the rules that the FA intended to adopt would destroy the game and all interest in it. Other rugby clubs followed this lead and did not join the FA. In 1871, a meeting attended by representatives from 21 clubs was held in London and as a result of this meeting, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) was founded. Three lawyers, who were Rugby School alumni (Rutter, Holmes and L.J. Maton), drew up the first laws of the game.
     Rugby football has strong claims to the world's first and oldest "football club": the Guy's Hospital Football Club, formed in London in 1843, by old boys from Rugby School. The Blackheath Rugby Club, in London, founded in 1858 is the oldest surviving non-university/school rugby club. The first rugby football international was played in 1871 between Scotland and England in Edinburgh. In 1883 the first international competition, the Home Nations Championship had begun, and 1883 is also the year of the first rugby sevens tournament, the Melrose Sevens, which is still held annually. The International Rugby Football Board (IRFB, now World Rugby) was formed by Scotland, Ireland and Wales in 1886, England finally agreed to join in 1890.
     The code was originally known as "rugby football"; it was not until after the schism in England in 1895, which resulted in the separate code of rugby league, that the sport took on the name "rugby union" to differentiate it from the league game. In 1987 the first Rugby World Cup was held in Australia and New Zealand, and the first World Cup Sevens tournament was held in 1993. In 1995, the International Rugby Board declared rugby union an "open" game and thus removed all restrictions on payments or benefits to those connected with the game. It did this because of a committee conclusion that to do so was the only way to end the hypocrisy of shamateurism and to keep control of rugby union. Rugby Sevens was added to the Olympic Games of 2016.

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