Many believe that rugby was born in 1823 when William Webb Ellis "with fine disregard for the rules of football (soccer) as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the Rugby game". Although it is worth pointing out that this is apocryphal as there is little in the way of evidence to substantiate this view, it is however, the popular view. So much so in fact that the international committee named the Rugby world cup the "William Webb Ellis Trophy".

#The invention of Rugby was therefore not the act of playing early forms of the game or the acts of a certain Webb-Ellis (true or not), but rather the events which led up to it's codification. Like so many sports which originated from Victorian England it was competition, the sense of fair play and the subsequent need for rules and laws which allowed the game to develop on a global basis and spawn internationally.

The innovation of running with the ball was introduced some time between 1820 and 1830.

If William Webb Ellis's was responsible for this innovation as stated in Mr Bloxam's account, it was probably met by vigorous retribution but by 1838-9 Jem Mackie, with his powerful running, made it an acceptable part of the game although it was not legalized until 1841-2 initially by Bigside Levee and finally by the first written rules of August 28th, 1845.

Mr Bloxam was a student at Rugby School at the same time as Webb-Ellis but left some years before him. His account of what someone else witnessed (probably his brother) is the only evidence on which the story is based.

During the middle of the 19th century, Rugby Football, up till that time a regular game only among school boys, took its place as a regular sport among men. The former students of Rugby school (and other Rugby playing schools such as Marlborough School) started to spread their version of football (Rugby rules) far and wide. The first notable event was a former pupil, Arthur Pell who founded a club at Cambridge University in 1839. The Old Rugbeians challenged the Old Etonians to a game of football and controversy at the Rugbeians' use of hands led to representatives of the major public schools (Rugby, Eton college, Harrow, Marlborough, Westminster and Shrewsbury) meeting to draw up the 'Cambridge Rules' in 1848.

Along with the founding of the Rugby Football Union a committee was formed, and three ex-Rugby School pupils, all lawyers, were invited to formulate a set of rules, being lawyers they formulated 'laws' not 'rules'. This task was completed and approved by June 1871. The laws have changed a great deal since then and spawned other games.


Rugby Football, general name for a variety of football. It was said to have originated when a boy at Rugby School in Rugby, England, picked up and carried the ball during a game of football in 1823. Previously, the rules had only allowed the ball to be kicked.


The modern game of rugby dates from the 1860s, when it was adopted and modified by other English schools and universities. In 1871 the English Rugby Union was formed to standardize the rules. The game is played with an oval ball, blunter in shape than the American football so that it may easily be bounced and drop-kicked—that is, kicked on the rebound.

A rugby team consists of 15 players, generally divided into 8 forwards and 7 backs. A team can have up to seven substitute players (exact numbers vary by league or by country). Substitute players begin the match on the bench and fill in for starting players who are injured or taken out of the match for another reason. Injured players, once having left the game, may not return unless they have left the field because of bleeding or an open wound. If this is the case, the player can only return within 15 minutes of leaving the field. A game usually lasts for 80 minutes and is divided into two 40-minute halves with no timeouts.

The Football Association was formed in 1863 - football was usually only played by men.

The Rugby Football Union was formed in 1871. Being one of the rougher Victorian games, 71 deaths were attributed to this team sport between the years of 1890 and 1893.

Rugby has some similarities to American football... while in Great Britain 'football' refers to the game which is called 'soccer' in the United States.


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