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 The History of Rugby Union

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PostSubject: The History of Rugby Union   4th March 2008, 10:40 pm

The history of rugby union follows from various football games played long before the 19th century, but it was not until the middle of that century that rules were formulated and codified. The code of football later known as rugby union can be traced to three events: the first set of written rules in 1845; the Blackheath Club's decision to leave the The Football Association in 1863 and; the formation of the Rugby Football Union in 1871. The code was originally known simply as "rugby football"; it was not until a schism, in 1895, which resulted in the separate code of rugby league, that the name "rugby union" was used for the game itself. Rugby union stuck to its ideals of amateurism and it was not until the end of the late 20th century that the game turned professional.

Early history
Playing football has been a long tradition in England and football had probably been played at Rugby School for two hundred years before three boys published the first set of written rules in 1845. The rules had always been determined by the pupils and not the masters and they were frequently modified with each new intake. Rules changes, such as the legality of carrying or running with the ball, were often agreed shortly before the commencement of a game.
This only known portrait of William Webb Ellis, circa 1857, from the Illustrated London News.There were thus no formal rules for football during the time William Webb Ellis was at the school (1816-1825) and the legendary story of the boy "who with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it" in 1823 is apocryphal. The story first appeared in 1876, some four years after the death of Webb Ellis, and is attributed to a local antiquarian and former Rugbeian Matthew Bloxam. Bloxam was not a contemporary of Webb Ellis and vaguely quoted an unnamed person as informing him of the incident that had supposedly happened 53 years earlier. The story has been dismissed as unlikely since an official investigation by the Old Rugbeian Society in 1895. However, the trophy for the Rugby World Cup is named "Webb Ellis" in his honour, and a plaque at the school commemorates the 'achievement'.
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. Around the anglosphere, a number of other clubs formed to play games based on the Rugby School rules. One of these, Dublin University Football Club, founded in 1854, has arguably become the world's oldest surviving football club in any code. The Blackheath Rugby Club, in London, founded in 1858 is the oldest surviving non-university/school rugby club. Cheltenham College 1844, Sherborne School 1846 and Durham School 1850 are the oldest documented school's clubs. Francis Crombie and Alexander Crombie introduced rugby into Scotland via Durham School in 1854.

The schism between the Football Association and Rugby Football
The Football Association was formed at the Freemason’s Tavern, Great Queen Street, on Lincoln Inn Fields, London October 26 1863 with the intention to frame a code of laws that would embrace the best and most acceptable points of all the various methods of play under the one heading of "football". At the beginning of the fourth meeting attention was drawn to the fact that a number of newspapers had recently published the Cambridge Rules of 1863. The Cambridge rules differed from the draft FA rules in two significant areas; namely 'running with the ball' and 'hacking' (kicking an opponent in the shins). The two contentious draft rules were as follows: IX. A player shall be entitled to run with the ball towards his adversaries' goal if he makes a fair catch, or catches the ball on the first bound; but in case of a fair catch, if he makes his mark he shall not run.
X. If any player shall run with the ball towards his adversaries' goal, any player on the opposite side shall be at liberty to charge, hold, trip or hack him, or to wrest the ball from him, but no player shall be held and hacked at the same time.
At the fifth meeting a motion was proposed that these two rules be expunged from the FA rules, F. M. Campbell a member of the Blackheath Club argued that hacking is an essential element of the 'football' and that to eliminate hacking would "do away with all the courage and pluck from the game, and I will be bound over to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who would beat you with a week’s practice". At the 6th meeting on December 8 F.W.C. withdrew the Blackheath Club 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 Football Association.

The forming of the first Rugby Union
In December 1870 Edwin Ash, Secretary of Richmond Football Club published a letter in the papers which said, "Those who play the rugby-type game should meet to form a code of practice as various clubs play to rules which differ from others, which makes the game difficult to play." On January 26 1871 a meeting attended by representatives from 21 clubs was held in London at the Mall Restaurant.
The 21 clubs present at the meeting were: Blackheath R.C., Richmond F.C., Ravenscourt Park, West Kent, Marlborough Nomads, Wimbledon Hornets, Gipsies, Civil Service, Law Club, Wellington College, Guy’s Hospital, Flamingoes, Clapham Rovers, Harlequin F.C., King's College, St Paul's, Queen’s House, Lausanne, Addison, Mohicans, and Belsize Park. The one notable omission was the London Wasps. A representative of the Wasps club was sent to attend the meeting, but due to a misunderstanding, was sent to the wrong venue at the wrong time on the wrong day. A more popular story is that the Wasps representative arrived at a venue of the same name, and after consuming a number of drinks, he was too drunk to make his way to the correct venue once he realised his mistake.
As a result of this meeting the Rugby Football Union (RFU) was founded. Algernon Rutter was elected as the first president of the RFU and Edwin Ash was elected as treasurer. Three lawyers who were Rugby School alumni (Rutter, Holmes and L.J. Maton) drew up the first laws of the game which were approved in June 1871.

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PostSubject: Rugby Union   21st April 2008, 10:15 pm

The forming of the International Rugby Football Board
In 1884 England had a disagreement with Scotland over a try that England had scored but the referee disallowed citing a foul by Scotland. England argued that the referee should have played advantage and since they made the Law, if they said it was a try then it was. The International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) was formed by Scotland, Ireland and Wales in 1886 but England refused to join since they believed they should have greater representation on the board because they had a greater number of clubs. They also refused to accept that the IRFB should be the recognised law maker of the game. The IRFB agreed that the member countries would not play England until the RFU agreed to join and accept that the IRFB would oversee the games between the home unions. England finally agreed to join in 1890. In 1930 it was agreed between the members that all future matches would be played under the laws of the IRFB. In 1997 The IRFB moved its headquarters from London to Dublin and a year later the International Rugby Football Board dropped the 'F' to become the International Rugby Board (IRB).
The article on the International Rugby Board contains more details about the IRB, including a time line of important events and when national unions and federations joined the IRB.

Evolution of modern rules
Changes to the laws of the game have been made at various times and this process still continues today.
The number of players was reduced from twenty to fifteen-a-side in 1877
Historically, no points at all were awarded for a try, the reward being to "try" to kick the ball over the posts. Some historians record the first international between Scotland and England finishing 0-0 for this reason. The first points scoring system was created in 1889.
The balance in value between tries and conversions has changed greatly over the years. Until 1891, a try scored one point, a conversion two. For the next two years tries scored two points and conversion three, until in 1893 the modern pattern of tries scoring more was begun with three points awarded for a try, two for a kick. The number of points from a try increased to four in 1971 and five in 1992.
Penalties have been worth three points since 1891 (they previously had been worth two points). The value of the drop goal was four points between 1891 and 1948, but three points at all other times.
The goal from mark was abandoned in 1971, having been worth three points, except between 1891 and 1905 when it was worth four.

Until the late 1860's rugby was played with a spherical ball with an inner-tube made of a pig's bladder. In 1862 Richard Lindon introduced rubber inner-tubes and because of the pliability of rubber the shape gradually changed from a sphere to an egg. In 1892 the RFU endorsed ovalness as the compulsory shape. The gradual flattening of the ball continued over the years. In the 1980's leather-encased balls, which were prone to water-logging, were replaced with balls encased in synthetic waterproof materials.

The schism between union and league
It is believed that Yorkshire inaugurated amateurism rules in 1879, their representatives along with Lancashire's, are creditied with formalising the RFU's first amateur rules in 1886. Despite popular belief, these Northern bodies were strong advocates of amateurism, leading numerous crusades against veiled professionalism. However, conflict arose over the controversy regarding broken time, the issue of whether players should receive compensation for injuries received whilst playing. The northern clubs were heavily populated by a working class, and thus, a large pool of players would either not turn out for their clubs due to working commitments, or forgo pay to play rugby. In 1892, allegations of player payments were directed at the Bradford and Leeds clubs, though this was not the first allegation towards these northern bodies, that is not to say southern bodies had not been involved in similar circumstances. The RFU became concerned that these broken time payments were a pathway to professionalism.
On August 29 1895 at a meeting at the George Hotel, Huddersfield, twenty clubs from Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire decided to resign from the RFU and form the Northern Rugby Football Union which from 1922 would be known as the Rugby Football League. In 1908, eight clubs in Sydney broke away from union and form the New South Wales Rugby League. The dispute about payment was one which at the time was also affecting soccer and cricket. Each game had to work out a compromise; Rugby was the least successful at doing this. It would be a century before union legalised payments to players and would allow players who had played a game of league (even at an amateur level) to play in a union game.

Summer Olympics
Pierre de Coubertin, the revivor of the modern Olympics, introduced rugby union to the Summer Olympics at the 1900 games in Paris. Coubertin had previous associations with the game, refereeing the first French domestic championship as well as France’s first international. France, the German Empire and Great Britain all entered teams in the 1900 games. France won gold defeating both opponents. The rugby event drew the largest crowd at that particular games. Rugby was next played at the 1908 games in London. A Wallaby team, on tour in the United Kingdom, took part in the event, winning the gold, defeating Great Britain. The United States won the next event, at the 1920 Summer Olympics, famously defeating the French. The Americans backed up their victory, defeating France in Paris at the 1924 Summer Olympics – infamous for the controversies surrounding the rivalry between the two teams. The IOC soon pulled rugby as an event - even though rugby had attracted bigger crowds than the track and field events in 1924.
World War I
The Five Nations Championship was suspended in 1915 and it was not resumed until 1920. One hundred and thirty three international players were killed during the conflict. The Queensland Rugby Union was disbanded after the war and was not reformed until 1929, NSW took responsibility for rugby union in Australia until the formation of the ARU in 1949.
Centenary of rugby
As 1923 approached, there were discussions of a combined England and Wales XV playing a Scottish-Irish team in celebration of when William Webb Ellis picked up the football and ran with it in 1823. The planned game was controversial in that, there was a disagreement over whether it should be held at the Rugby School, or be played at Twickenham, where an obviously larger crowd could witness the match. In the end, the match was taken to the Rugby School.

Interesting times 1931 – 1947
In 1931 Lord Bledisloe, the Governor-General of New Zealand, donated a trophy for competition between Australia and New Zealand. The Bledisloe Cup became one of the great rivalries in international rugby union.
For many years, the sport’s authorities had suspected that the governing body of French Rugby Union, the French Rugby Federation (FFR) was allowing the abuse of the rules on amateurism, and in 1931 the French Rugby Union was suspended from playing against the other nations. Looking around for an alternative, many French players turned to rugby league, which soon became the dominant game in France, particularly in the south west of the country.
In 1934 the Federation Internationale de Rugby Amateur (FIRA) was formed at the instigation of the French. It was designed to organise rugby union outside the authority of IRB. In 1990s the organisation recognised the IRB as the governing body of rugby union world wide and became in 1999 FIRA - Association of European Rugby an organisation to promote and rule over rugby union in the European area.
In 1939 the FFR was invited to send a team to the Five Nations Championship for the following season, but when war was declared, international rugby was suspended. Eighty eight international rugby union football players were killed during the conflict.
In the UK, for the duration of the World War II the ban on rugby league players was temporarily lifted by the RFU. Many played in the eight rugby "Internationals" between England and Scotland which were played by Armed Services teams, using the rugby union code. The authorities also allowed the playing of two “Rugby League vs. Rugby Union” fixtures as fundraisers for the war effort. The rugby league team (which included some pre-war professionals) won both matches, which were held under union rules.
After the defeat of France in 1940, the French Rugby Union authorities worked with the German collaborating Vichy regime to re-establish the dominance of their sport; Rugby League was banned and many players and officials of the sport were punished. All of the assets of the Rugby League and its clubs were handed over to the Union. The consequences of this action reverberate to this day; the assets were never returned, and although the ban on rugby league was lifted, it was prevented from calling itself “rugby” until the mid-eighties, having to use the name Jeu de Treize (Game of Thirteen, in reference to the number of player in a rugby league side)
In 1947 the Five Nations Championship resumed with France taking part.

1948 - 1986
In 1948 the worth of a drop goal was reduced from 4 points to 3 points. Meanwhile in Australia, the Australian Rugby Union was formed in 1949, as previously, the NSWRU had governed most rugby union affairs within Australia. Long after the William Webb Ellis had become engraved as a legend in the history of rugby union, his grave was finally located in October of 1959.
In 1971 the Scotland rugby team appointed Bill Dickinson as their head coach, after years of avoidance, as it was their belief that rugby should remain an amateur sport. The 1971 Springbok tour to Australia was famous for its political protests against South Africa's apartheid system. The 1970's were a golden era for Wales with the team capturing five Five Nations titles and dominating the Lions selections throughout the decade. In the middle of the decade, after overseeing the rise in popularity of rugby union in the United States, members bodies met in Chicago in 1975 and formed the United States of America Rugby Football Union, today known as USA Rugby.
The 1981 Springbok Tour to New Zealand was also marked by political protests and is still referred to by Kiwi's as The Tour. The tour was divisive in New Zealand society and rugby lost some of its sheen in the country until the All Blacks captured the inaugural World Cup. In 1983, the WRFU (Women's Rugby Football Union) was formed, with 12 inaugural clubs, the body being responsible for women's rugby in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. In 1984 the Wallabies completed their first grand slam, defeating all four home nations, and announcing their emergence as a power in world rugby.

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PostSubject: Rugby Union   21st April 2008, 10:16 pm

The Rugby World Cup
The first Rugby World Cup was held in Australia and New Zealand in 1987, and was won by the All Blacks. The Second was held in England in 1991 and was won by Australia who beat the hosts in the final. The World Cup of 1995 proved to be a turning point for the game. The competition was held in South Africa, newly readmitted from international exile. The first superstar was created when giant wing Jonah Lomu scored four tries for the All Blacks against England, using Mike Catt as a doormat on the way to one of them. The Springboks won the final, beating the All Blacks 15-12 thanks to Joel Stransky's boot, But not after allegations of food poisioning as several of the ABs had gotten sick the night before. South African President Nelson Mandela, dressed not in a suit but in the Springbok jersey, long a symbol of apartheid, with the name and number (6) of South Africa's captain Francois Pienaar, gave Pienaar the William Webb Ellis Trophy.
This had shown the commercial potential for the game, and breakaway competitions were being formed, thus forcing the hand of the authorities to declare the game open.

The professional era
On August 26 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. The threat to rugby union was especially large in countries where rugby league had a significant following. The Super League competition was threatening to entice players to rugby league from rugby union (which was still amateur) with large salaries.
SANZAR was formed in 1995 by the New Zealand, Australian and South African Rugby Unions to try and counter the Super League threat.[5] SANZAR proposed a provincial competition with teams from all three countries, this competition became the Super 12 and later the Super 14. Their proposal also included the Tri Nations Series, an annual competition between each country's Test teams. They were eventually able to get backing for the competition from Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, with a contract totaling $550 million (US) for ten years of exclusive TV and radio broadcasting rights. The deal was signed during the 1995 Rugby World Cup and revealed at a press conference on the eve of World Cup final.
SANZAR's proposals were however under serious threat from a Sydney based group called the World Rugby Competition (WRC). WRC was formed by Lawyer Geoff Levy and former Wallaby Ross Turnbull, both wanted a professional worldwide rugby competition funded by Kerry Packer.[7] At one point the WRC had the majority of the All Black, Wallaby and Springbok teams signed up to their competition, whilst the New Zealand, Australian and South African Rugby Unions initially struggled to sign up their test players. However, WRC's competing competition hit problems when the Springboks, the recently crowned World Champions, reneged on their WRC contracts and signed up with the South African Rugby Union.[8] The Springboks had been told they would never play for their country again if they committed to WRC.[9] Most of the All Blacks then followed their Springbok counterparts by signing with their Union. The Australians, realising that without the New Zealanders and South Africans WRC's proposal could not succeed, relented and signed for the Australian Rugby Union.
The Heineken Cup was formed in 1995 as a competition for twelve European clubs. Today the competition fields sides from England, France, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Italy. The century old competition for the European rugby powers became the Six Nations Championship in 2000 with the addition of Italy.
The rugby union authorities of the time hoped that as players could now play in either code, in the long term most of the sponsorship and interest would gravitate away from league to union. The union clubs and national teams in Australia and England stand to gain the most, as they are able to call upon talent in terms of ideas, players and support from the league heartlands. Conversely, the ending of sanctions against the playing of rugby league led to some amateur union players moving the other way and sampling the ‘other code’.

The move to professionalism was not without its problems, and the many smaller unions have struggled (both financially and in playing terms) to compete with the major nations since the start of the open era. In England whilst some teams flourished in the professional era others such as Richmond, Wakefield, Orrell, Waterloo and London Scottish found the going much harder and have either folded or dropped down the leagues.
Alterations to the laws of rugby union were trialled by students of Stellenbosch University in South Africa in 2006, and are further being trialled in competitions in Scotland and Australia in 2007, though no changes are expected to be made before 2008.
The scoring system used in rugby has changed many times over the years. In the original games scoring a "touch down" allowed the team to "try" a kick at goal. This is the derivation of the word "try" to describe a touch down in Rugby Union. Prior to 1890 each of the Home Unions had their own point scoring systems. A try scored in Scotland was worth 2 points whilst a try scored in England was worth 1 point. One of the first tasks undertaken by the International Rugby Football Board, formed in 1890, was to introduce a standard point scoring system. One point was awarded for a try, two points for a successful kick at goal after scoring a try (a conversion) and three points for a dropped goal or for a penalty goal. Most of the changes have been to increase the value of tries compared to goals (conversions, penalties, dropped-goals, and goals from mark).
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