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Rugby - history



Rugby football developed from a version of football played at Rugby School and was one of several versions of football played at English public schools during the 19th century.


The precursor to both rugby union and rugby league was rugby football. During this early period different schools used different rules, on many occasions agreeing upon them shortly before commencement of the game. In 1871, English clubs met to form the Rugby Football Union (RFU). Rugby football spread to Australia and New Zealand, with games being played in the early to mid nineteenth century. In 1892, charges of professionalism were laid against Yorkshire clubs after they compensated players for missing work. A proposal to pay players up to six shillings when they missed work because of match commitments was voted down by the RFU. On 27 August 1895, prominent Lancashire clubs declared that they would support their Yorkshire colleagues in their proposal to form a professional Northern Union and the Northern Rugby Football Union, usually called the Northern Union (NU), was formed. The rugby union authorities issued sanctions against clubs, players and officials involved in the new organisation, extending to amateurswho played with or against Northern Union sides. After the schism the separate codes were named "rugby league" and "rugby union".In 1906, All Black George William Smith joined with Albert Henry Baskerville to form a team of professional rugby players. George Smith cabled a friend in Sydney and three professional matches were arranged between a NSW rugby team before continuing onto the UK. This game was played under the rugby union laws and it wasn't until the team, nicknamed the All Golds, arrived in Leeds that they learnt the new Northern Union laws. Meanwhile in Sydney a meeting was organised to look at forming a professional rugby competition in Australia. The meeting resolved that a "New South Wales Rugby Football League" (NSWRFL) should be formed, to play the Northern Union rules. The first season of the NSWRFL competition was played in 1908, and has continued to be played every year since.


During rugby league's 1921–22 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain, the Northern Rugby Football Union tried to arrange a match in Paris, but opposition from the Rugby Football Union-aligned French Rugby Federation made it impossible. In France rugby league split from rugby union in the 1930s. In 1948 the French instigated the formation of the International Rugby League Board as the world governing body for rugby league. France, New Zealand, Britain and Australia (who joined a few months later) were the founding countries. The International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) had formed prior to the schsim in 1886 and remained the international governing body for rugby union, although it originally only consisted of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa joined the IRFB in 1948, France in 1978 and Argentina, Canada, Italy and Japan in 1991.


On 26 August 1995 the IRFB, now known as 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.


Rugby union had previously been a medal sport at four Olympic games, in Paris (1900), London (1908), Antwerp (1920) and Paris (1924), and will return to the Olympics in 2016 and 2020 in the sevens form. Rugby union sevens is a core event at both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. The oldest international rugby union competition is the Six Nations Championship, starting in 1883 with games played between England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. France joined in 1910 and Italy in 2000. In 1996 the Southern Hemisphere teams of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand started their own annual international competition known as the Tri Nations; it adopted its current name of The Rugby Championship when Argentina joined in 2012. The major annual international competition in rugby league is the Four Nations, first played in 1999. It originally involved Britain, Australia and New Zealand before expanding to include a fourth invited nation in 2009. Rugby league introduced its World Cup in 1954 and it has been held intermittently since, in various formats. Rugby union's first World Cup was held in 1987 and it is contested every four years.




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