Rugby has a long history that originated in ancient Greece where people played many games with balls, some of them resembling rugby. Also, in ancient Rome, they played a game called harpastum. The term comes from Greek and means “carried away”.
In medieval England, rugby was considered a “devilish pastime” since it caused many injuries among the players and was forbidden in Tudor times.
Modern rugby did not come into existence until the 19th century in the United Kingdom. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of rugby and the latest rugby news, please keep reading.
Quick History of Rugby
Football was a top-rated game at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England. However, their games had different rules. During a game in 1823, the students had to catch the ball and run backward to kick the ball and score a goal.
Despite that, a student called William Webb Ellis took the ball and ran forward toward the opponent’s goal. Even though it did not make a difference back then, the rule officially made the rulebook in 1841 and the game of rugby was born.
Mady historians disagree that this was how the game originated since there’s little evidence. Still, it is the most popular opinion and today’s Rugby World Cup trophy is called the William Webb Ellis trophy.
Early History of Rugby League
The first international rugby league match was played in 1904 between England and the Other Nationalities team, mostly consisting of Welsh players. Interestingly, for the following three years, rugby league matches were still played under RFU rules.
The year 1907 — when the majority of existing rules were disregarded or mended — was the turning point for rugby leagues. The most significant changes included reducing the number of players from the existing 15 to 13, eliminating two flankers or forwards.
Additionally, rugby league eliminated the line-out, meaning that the play wouldn’t be restarted when the ball had gone into touch. “Playing the ball” was introduced instead of the ruck, as well. The last notable change included that all goals be worth two points.
However, today’s rugby league gameplay rules differ slightly. Avid rugby league fans are familiar with the fact that regulations vary from competition to competition.
The rules of rugby league matches have continually changed since rugby was first introduced. An interesting fact is that rugby league matches are played on a smaller field or paddock than other rugby football forms — 68 x 100 meters. For comparison, other rugby pitches can be as big as 70 x 144 meters.
Interestingly, a rugby league match holds the record for the most massive crowd to attend an international fixture rugby match. The 2013 Rugby League World Cup played at Old Trafford stadium in England attracted 74,468 spectators.
Things are no different Down Under. Similarly, the National Rugby League Grand Final match played in 2014 was the highest-rated television program in Australia for the whole of 2014. The year marked the 107th anniversary of professional rugby league in Australia.
To make things even more exciting in the rugby world, a rugby league player holds the record for the oldest rugby player to participate in a match. Dennis Gleeson played for the State Rail Apprentice RLFC in the NSW Tertiary Student Rugby League Competition in 2006. At the time, Gleeson was 70 years and nine days old and was registered as a player for the whole ‘06 season in Australia, playing a game every week.
Even though rugby is immensely popular all over the globe, especially in England, Australia, and New Zealand, only one country has made rugby league a national sport. In Papua New Guinea, not only is rugby league the national sport of the country, but about 50% of the population under 20 plays rugby. Additionally, rugby league has been part of the school curriculum since 2010.