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20 Things You Never Knew About Rugby
- Rugby and football were effectively the same game until 1863. The rift occurred when attempts were made to formalize the rules of football, whereupon the Blackheath club abandoned the new Football Association, wanting to protect the players’ right to kick each other on the other side.
- Initially, the game of rugby was played by teams of 20 players.
- Rugby is the oldest international team sport, with the first rugby test preceding the first cricket and football tests.
- The International Rugby Board was created as a result of a controversial application, in a match between England and Scotland.
- The 1895 split between rugby league and rugby union occurred along class and geographical lines. Working-class clubs in the North embraced a professional game, while wealthier clubs in the South adhered to the ethos of amateur rugby.
- The United States is the Olympic rugby gold medalist, having won the last rugby competition played at the Olympics, in 1924.
- Japan has the largest playing pool of any rugby playing country, with 125,000 registered players.
- Pope John Paul II played rugby for the Polish national team.
- The first Gilbert rugby ball was produced in the late 1700s by William Gilbert, a shoemaker whose business was located next to the Rugby school where the first modern game was played.
- The shape of the modern rugby ball derives from the use of an inflated pig’s bladder, which was used in the early years of the game.
- In the early days of the game only one point was given for a bid. However, he did earn a 3-point rebound goal.
- The first test between Western Samoa and Fiji was played at 7am in the morning, on a field with a large tree growing in the middle.
- 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 resulted in the development of the sport being stopped for decades, and also gave football the opportunity to become the most popular game in the United Kingdom.
- If Germany had not occupied France during the Second World War, rugby league would have been the dominant convention in that country. During the Nazi occupation all the huge assets of the French Rugby League were transferred to the French Rugby Union, and for decades after the war rugby league clubs were not allowed to describe their game as ‘rugby’.
- It was only in 1959 that the grave of William Webb Ellis, the man credited with inventing rugby, was found.
- Stellenbosch Rugby Club in South Africa is the largest rugby club in the world with over 7,000 registered players.
- Rugby Union is a hugely popular spectator sport in Georgia and Madagascar.
- Since turning professional, rugby’s popularity has grown dramatically around the world, with the 2007 Rugby World Cup attracting a cumulative audience of 4 billion. The sport is currently considered the second most popular on the planet, the first being football.
- Rugby union is becoming more popular than any other sport in the United States, and the country already has a player pool larger than any of the Celtic teams participating in the Six Nations.
Well, there you have it – 20 things you might not have done now about rugby!
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