The History of Rugby

"Where it came from and When it all Began"

     Rugby is the parent game of many of the modern football codes including Rugby League, Rugby Union, Australian Rules Football, Gaelic Football and American Football. Rugby came from early versions of football (soccer). Handling the ball was permitted in football in the early 1800's in England when players were allowed to take a mark and then a free kick, long before rugby evolved. Early Rugby In fact, most of the English public schools allowed forms of handling the ball right up until the formation of the Football Association in the 1860's. The Association even considered whether to allow its continuation, before eventually deciding to outlaw it. The rugby story that the rugby game was born from soccer the moment that a boy called William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it not true."

    The Rugby School The Rugby game was developed at the school it was named after - Rugby School. What is known is that at Rugby School by the 1830's running with the ball was in common use, the goal posts had been extended to 18 feet high (with a cross-bar at 10 feet above the ground) and there were forms of scrummaging and line-outs. The inclusion of the cross-bar was accompanied by a rule that a goal could only be scored by the ball passing over the bar from a place kick or drop kick. Apparently this was done to make scoring easier from further out and also to avoid the horde of defenders standing in the goal mouth

    Playing Rugby Players who were able to "touch-down" the ball behind the opponents goal line were awarded a "try-at-goal" - the player would make a mark on the goal line and then walk back onto the field of play to a point where a place kick at the goal was possible (a conversion). There was also an "off-your-side" rule used to keep the rugby teams apart and passing the ball forward was not allowed. The rules were first seriously agreed upon and documented when former Rugby students and clubs wanted to commence formal competitions outside of the Rugby School in 1862.

    Many of the rugby clubs that formed around this period still play today. Scoring in Rugby From 1875 when games finished without any goals being scored, the team which had the most "tries-at-goal" was awarded the win. From 1886 three "tries" equalled one goal in points, before the balance finally moved to giving more value to the scoring of tries. By 1893 the scoring was much closer to what we know today - a try was worth three points, a converted try five points, three for a penalty goal and four for a field goal. However, the rugby game was still very brutal and raw with 71 deaths recorded in English rugby from 1890 to 1893 alone.( )


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