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History of rugby in the world


It all started on the 7th of April 1823 during the football match played by pupils from a male school in Rugby (near Birmingham, West Midlands). Throughout the game, the teams continued to draw, both were struggling to take the lead. All of a sudden, one of the players William Webb Ellis caught the ball in his arms, ran across the pitch and placed it between the rival?s posts. He did not score and the incident became known in England as  violation of sport fighting rules, at the same time causing Ellis a lot of trouble. Nevertheless, the player?s feat commenced the era of a new team game called rugby, named after the town where it was first played. William Webb Ellis? ?disregard for the  rules?  is commemorated by the plaque in his old school.

English schools determined their own rules when playing football and it took a while until different brands of the game could be distinguished. Invariably, though, the main rules regarding time of play, number of players were set down before the game began. The game was supervised by a referee, whose main responsibility was to settle only the most serious disputes on the pitch. The ball was made of an animal bladder stuffed with grass.  Its oval shape has not changed since the beginnings of rugby.

The shoemaker?s located just opposite the school in Rugby is known for devising the first rugby ball. In time, the shop has grown into one of  the biggest companies producing rugby equipment. As for rugby outfit, it did not exist as such at the beginning. Instead, during the game players used to take off their jackets and ties bearing in mind the safety on the pitch. When team games became more popular and open to general public, the organizers started to think about creating a unified set of rules. Active supporters of a new game refused to adapt the rules which very much resembled the ones applied in contemporary football. In response, rugby rules were created and applied first time in 1846.
1860-1870 was a time of rapid development of rugby. The more and more popular game reached Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The first English rugby clubs were set up in 1863 (Blackheat) and 1864 (Richmond). The establishment  of Football Association and the fact that football players were not allowed to use hands to move the ball separated both disciplines forever. The first set of rugby written rules was compiled by L J Mantone and published in 1866. The number of rugby matches was increasing and the first one at international level was played by Scotland vs. England, where Scotland defeated its rival 8:3. Rugby players strived to further develop the discipline unify the rules and associate. It led to the formulation of the first official rugby organization called Rugby Football Union in 1871. At that time, there were already 21 rugby clubs open. Between 1871 and 1876 the teams consisted of 20 players and the duration of the match was set by captains before the game began.

In 1885 RFU developed and published rules which are still applied in contemporary rugby. These contain information about the number of players, division into forwards and backs, scrum, throwing the ball from lineout, referee and so on. 1886 saw the establishment of International Rugby Football Board.

Soon interest in rugby spread beyond the borders of United Kingdom to other countries, especially France, where in 1853 the first rugby club was set up. Between 1887 and 1888 the rugby representation visited Australia and New Zealand. They managed to spark some interest in rugby among the locals and in result, nowadays, teams from these countries tend to take positions on the top of rugby leagues. At the turn of the 19th century, rugby was introduced to physical education classes in the army and schools in England. Its benefits were recognized as essential in physical development of teenagers. Rugby was present four times at the Olympic Games - first time in 1900 in Paris, where the gold medalists the Frenchmen defeated Germans 25 to 16. Second time - at the Olympics in London where the winning team from Australasia (Australia and New Zealand) beat United Kingdom. And finally, in 1920 at 7th Olympic Games in Antwerp and four years later in Paris, where the USA team came first and France second.

The original text comes from the book entitled ?ABC of Rugby Supporter? written by Maciej Powala-Niedzwiecki.


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