It is soon the return of Christmas and family meals are always accompanied by animated discussions! What better way to relax the atmosphere than to explain the story of Rugby? It is your grandfather who will be impressed when you tell him about an era that even he did not live through! But then where does this funny idea of chasing after each other to retrieve this oval ball come from? Discover today the history of one of the most followed and practised sports in the world.
The origins of rugby are still very controversial today, but its name does not make for debate. Indeed, modern rugby was born in the city of Rugby in the centre of England, not far from Birmingham. However, to try to identify the origins of the sport, we must go back to the Middle Ages. In the 12th century a sport called “la soule” appeared in France and England and became very popular in the countryside. The goal of this sport at the time was to fight to recover the ball and then to score between two poles. Does that remind you of anything? You guessed it. It could be the ancestor of Rugby. “The soule” is already well known to be in the history of the sport as the ancestor of football. But a variant of this game was also played with feet and hands, and that could have been Rugby of that time!
William Webb Ellis, creator of the game?
According to legend and writing, it was in November 1823 that a 17-year-old William Webb Ellis invented rugby. During a football game in the town of Rugby Warwickshire England, he caught the ball with his hands and ran towards the opponent’s goal. Today a commemorative plaque pays tribute to the supposed inventor of this sport, William Webb Ellis. That’s why the Rugby World Cup trophy was named after him.
But this story does not makes everyone happy and especially not the Irish fans of this sport. They can not accept that the English are recognised as the creators of this sport. That is why in Ireland they have their own opinion about the invention of Rugby. According to them, rugby is the legacy of a local sport “Caid” or more commonly Gaelic football. A sport with elementary rules, you can play by hand or foot and to score a point just put the ball in the opponent’s goal.
Fans had to wait until 1871 for the creation of the “Rugby Football Union” to see a first international game of rugby played. A match between Scotland and England with a Scottish victory. Finally, in 1884 the first tournament took place bringing together Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales and was called the “4 Nations Tournament” at the time. A tournament that then constituted 5 nations in 1910 with the entry of France and 6 nations in 2000 with the entry of Italy.
Ireland remains one of the countries where rugby tradition is the most linked. This is why it seems important to know what linked Ireland and rugby in history.