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20 Things You Never Knew About Rugby
- Rugby and football were essentially the same game until 1863. The split occurred when attempts were made to formalize the rules of football, after which the Blackheath club left the new Football Association, wishing to protect the right of players to kick themselves on the shins.
- Initially, rugby was played by teams made up of 20 players.
- Rugby is the oldest international team sport, with the first Test rugby predating the first Tests of cricket and football.
- The International Rugby Board was created following a disputed trial in a match between England and Scotland.
- The 1895 split between rugby league and rugby union occurred both along class lines and along geographical lines. Working-class clubs in the North adopted a professional game, while wealthier clubs in the South adhered to the ethos of amateur rugby.
- The United States is rugby’s reigning Olympic gold medalist, having won the last rugby event contested at the Olympics, in 1924.
- Japan has the largest player pool of any rugby nation, with 125,000 registered players.
- Pope John Paul II played rugby for the Polish national team.
- The first Gilbert rugby ball was made in the late 1700s by William Gilbert, a shoemaker whose business was located next to the rugby school where the modern game was first played.
- The shape of the modern rugby ball is derived from the use of inflated pig bladders, which were used during the early years of the game.
- At the start of the game, only one point was awarded for a try. A drop goal, however, is worth 3 points.
- The first test between Western Samoa and Fiji was played at 7am, on a pitch with a large tree growing in its center.
- The South African rugby team did not lose a single Test series between 1896 and 1956.
- The First World War had a significant impact on rugby. 133 international players were killed in battles which set back the development of the sport for decades and also gave football the opportunity to become the most popular game in the UK.
- Had Germany not occupied France during World War II, rugby league would have been the dominant convention in that country. During the Nazi occupation, all the assets of the huge French Rugby League were handed over to the French Rugby Federation, and for decades after the war, rugby league clubs were not allowed to qualify their game of “rugby”.
- The grave of William Webb Ellis, the man credited with inventing rugby, was not located until 1959.
- Stellenbosch Rugby Club in South Africa is the largest rugby club in the world with over 7,000 registered players.
- Rugby union is an extremely popular spectator sport in Georgia and Madagascar.
- Since turning professional, rugby’s popularity has exploded around the world, with the 2007 Rugby World Cup attracting a cumulative audience of 4 billion people. The sport is currently considered the second most popular on the planet, the first being football.
- Rugby union is growing in popularity faster than any other sport in the United States, and the country already boasts a larger player base than any Celtic team competing in the Six Nations Championship.
Well, there you have it – 20 things you probably didn’t know about rugby by now!
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