Think you know everything about rugby? Nice try...

October 2nd 2015
By: Mary.Wilkins
Think you know everything about rugby? Nice try...

Even if you’re not an avid sport fan, you’re unlikely to have totally escaped the World Cup Rugby hype.  But did you know where the game originated from or a bit about the history of it?

In 1820 the game was played like soccer but the boys were allowed to catch the ball and then kick it out of their hands.  There were no restrictions on team sizes, or pitches, and as many as 200 boys were often on one side.

The game itself has origins which can be traced back over 2000 years with even the Romans playing a version of the game.  But rugby as we know it today has developed from the game played at Rugby school in The Close.  In 1823 one of the boys, William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it – a local historian described the event like this “with a fine disregard for the rules of the game as played in his time, William Webb Ellis first took the ball in his arms and ran with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the Rugby game”.  He gave his name to the Webb Ellis Cup which is the trophy awarded to the winner of the Rugby World Cup.

Boys from the school moved onto universities, and the first university game was played in 1872.   Following overseas postings, the game developed at an international level.

To score a ‘try’ would not actually win any points for the team, but would give them an opportunity to ‘try’ to ‘take a drop at goal’ to score a point.  Back then, with so many boys on a team, this was particularly hard to do and sometimes the games could last up to 5 days!  The boys played in ‘The Close’ which was three rough fields and sheep still grazed on it up until the early 1900s – there were also three elm trees in the pitch.  There were still no written rules at this stage.

The ball was originally round, but as the rules developed and the need to run it tucked under an arm, a local bootmaker ‘Gilbert’ took up the ball making supply to Rugby school and made the ball more oval.  The size of the ball varied depending on the pig’s bladder they were made from.

For more fascinating facts, have a look at Rugby school’s website where there are photographs and more historical information .

Finch & Co, Goodfellows’ sister company sponsor The Old Ruts where you can enjoy rugby and cricket, as well as their very welcoming bar and social club.  To find out more about becoming a member, have a look on their website or call into Finch & Co at 193 Kingston Road, Merton Park, SW19 1LH or talk to them on 020 8542 1193.