Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This Day in History: Mar 27, 1871: The first international Rugby football game

The first international football game resulted from a challenge issued in the sporting weekly Bell's Weekly on 8 December 1870 and signed by the captains of five Scottish clubs, inviting any team "selected from the whole of England" to a 20-a-side game to be played under the Rugby rules. The game was played at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh, the home ground of Edinburgh Academicals, on 27 March 1871.

This is not only the first international rugby match but the first international of any form of football because, despite the fact that three England v Scotland fixtures had already been played according to Association Football rules at The Oval, London, in 1870 and 1871 these are not considered full internationals by FIFA as the players competing in the Scotland team were London-based players who claimed a Scottish family connection rather than being truly Scottish players.[11]

The English team wore all white with a red rose on their shirts and the Scots brown shirts with a thistle and white cricket flannels.[10] The team representing England was captained by Frederick Stokes of Blackheath, that representing Scotland was led by Francis Moncrieff; the umpire was Hely Hutchinson Almond, headmaster of Loretto College.

The game, played over two halves, each of 50 minutes, was won by Scotland, who scored a goal with a successful conversion kick after grounding the ball over the goal line (permitting them to 'try' to kick a goal). Both sides achieved a further 'try' each, but failed to convert them to goals as the kicks were missed (see also 'Method of Scoring and Points' below).[12] Angus Buchanan of Royal High School FP and Edinburgh University RFC was the first man to score a try in international rugby. In a return match at the Kennington Oval, London, in 1872, England were the winners.

History of rugby union


The history of rugby union follows from various football games played long before the 19th century, but it was not until the middle of that century that rules were formulated and codified. The code of football later known as rugby union can be traced to three events: the first set of written rules in 1845, the Blackheath Club's decision to leave the Football Association in 1863 and the formation of the Rugby Football Union in 1871. The code was originally known simply as "rugby football." It was not until a schism in 1895, over the payment of players, which resulted in the formation of the separate code of rugby league, that the name "rugby union" was used to differentiate the original rugby code. For most of its history rugby was a strictly amateur football code, and the sport's administrators frequently imposed bans and restrictions on players who they viewed as professional. It was not until 1995 that rugby union was declared an "open" game, and thus professionalism was sanctioned by the code's governing body — the International Rugby Board.

Antecedents of rugby union

Although rugby football was codified at Rugby School, many rugby playing countries had pre-existing football games not dissimilar to rugby. Forms of traditional football similar to rugby have been played throughout Europe and beyond. Many of these involved handling of the ball, and scrummaging formations. For example, New Zealand had Ki-o-rahi, Australia marn grook, Japan kemari, Georgia lelo burti, the Scottish Borders Jeddart Ba' and Cornwall Cornish hurling, Central Italy Calcio Fiorentino, South Wales cnapan, East Anglia Campball and Ireland had caid, an ancestor of Gaelic football.

The first detailed description of what was almost certainly football in England was given by William FitzStephen in about 1174–1183. He described the activities of London youths during the annual festival of Shrove Tuesday:
After lunch all the youth of the city go out into the fields to take part in a ball game. The students of each school have their own ball; the workers from each city craft are also carrying their balls. Older citizens, fathers, and wealthy citizens come on horseback to watch their juniors competing, and to relive their own youth vicariously: you can see their inner passions aroused as they watch the action and get caught up in the fun being had by the carefree adolescents.[1]
Numerous attempts were made to ban football games, particularly the most rowdy and disruptive forms. This was especially the case in England and in other parts of Europe, during the Middle Ages and early modern period. Between 1324 and 1667, football was banned in England alone by more than 30 royal and local laws. The need to repeatedly proclaim such laws demonstrated the difficulty in enforcing bans on popular games. King Edward II was so troubled by the unruliness of football in London that on 13 April 1314 he issued a proclamation banning it:
"Forasmuch as there is great noise in the city caused by hustling over large balls from which many evils may arise which God forbid; we command and forbid, on behalf of the King, on pain of imprisonment, such game to be used in the city in the future."
In 1531, Sir Thomas Elyot wrote that English "Footeballe is nothinge but beastlie furie and extreme violence".
Football games which included ball carrying continued to be played over the century, right up to the time of William Webb Ellis' alleged invention.

Early history

Playing football has been a long tradition in England and versions of football had probably been played at Rugby School for two hundred years before three boys published the first set of written rules in 1845. The rules had always been determined by the pupils and not the masters and they were frequently modified with each new intake. Rules changes, such as the legality of carrying or running with the ball, were often agreed shortly before the commencement of a game. There were thus no formal rules for football during the time William Webb Ellis was at the school (1816–25) and the story of the boy "who with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it" in 1823 is apocryphal. The story first appeared in 1876, some four years after the death of Webb Ellis, and is attributed to a local antiquarian and former Rugbeian Matthew Bloxam. Bloxam was not a contemporary of Webb Ellis and vaguely quoted an unnamed person as informing him of the incident that had supposedly happened 53 years earlier. The story has been dismissed as unlikely since an official investigation by the Old Rugbeian Society in 1895. However, the cup for the Rugby World Cup is named the Webb Ellis trophy in his honour, and a plaque at the school commemorates the "achievement".

Rugby football has strong claims to the world's first and oldest "football club": the Guy's Hospital Football Club, formed in London in 1843, by old boys from Rugby School. Around the anglosphere, a number of other clubs formed to play games based on the Rugby School rules. One of these, Dublin University Football Club, founded in 1854, has arguably become the world's oldest surviving football club in any code. The Blackheath Rugby Club, in London, founded in 1858 is the oldest surviving non-university/school rugby club. Cheltenham College 1844, Sherborne School 1846 and Durham School 1850 are the oldest documented school's clubs. Francis Crombie and Alexander Crombie introduced rugby into Scotland via Durham School in 1854.

The Ball

Until the late 1860s rugby was played with a leather ball with an inner-bladder made of a pig's bladder. The shape of the bladder imparted a vaguely oval shape to the ball but they were far more spherical in shape than they are today. A quote from Tom Brown's Schooldays written by Thomas Hughes (who attended Rugby School from 1834 to 1842) shows that the ball was not a complete sphere:
the new ball you may see lie there, quite by itself, in the middle, pointing towards the school goal
In 1851 a football of the kind used at Rugby School was exhibited at the first World's Fair, the Great Exhibition in London, this ball can still be seen at the Webb Ellis Rugby Football Museum and it has a definite ovoid shape. In 1862 Richard Lindon introduced rubber bladders and because of the pliability of the rubber, balls could be manufactured with a more pronounced shape and, because an oval ball was easier to handle, a gradual flattening of the ball continued over the years as the emphasis of the game moved towards handling and away from dribbling. In 1892 the RFU included compulsory dimensions for the ball in the Laws of the Game for the first time. In the 1980s leather-encased balls, which were prone to water-logging, were replaced with balls encased in synthetic waterproof materials.[2]

The schism between the Football Association and Rugby Football

The Football Association (FA) was formed at the Freemason’s Tavern, Great Queen Street, on Lincoln Inn Fields, London, on 26 October 1863, with the intention of framing a code of laws that would embrace the best and most acceptable points of all the various methods of play under the one heading of football. At the beginning of the fourth meeting, attention was drawn to the fact that a number of newspapers had recently published the Cambridge rules of 1848. The Cambridge rules differed from the draft FA rules in two significant areas, namely "running with the ball" and "hacking" (kicking an opponent in the shins). The two contentious draft rules were as follows:
IX. A player shall be entitled to run with the ball towards his adversaries' goal if he makes a fair catch, or catches the ball on the first bound; but in case of a fair catch, if he makes his mark he shall not run.
X. If any player shall run with the ball towards his adversaries' goal, any player on the opposite side shall be at liberty to charge, hold, trip or hack him, or to wrest the ball from him, but no player shall be held and hacked at the same time.

At the fifth meeting, a motion was proposed that these two rules be expunged from the FA rules. Francis Maule Campbell, a member of the Blackheath Club, argued that hacking is an essential element of "football" and that to eliminate hacking would "do away with all the courage and pluck from the game, and I will be bound over to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who would beat you with a week’s practice".[5] At the sixth meeting, on 8 December, Campbell withdrew the Blackheath Club, explaining that the rules that the FA intended to adopt would destroy the game and all interest in it. Other rugby clubs followed this lead and did not join the Football Association.

The formation of the first Rugby Union

On 4 December 1870, Edwin Ash of Richmond and Benjamin Burns of Blackheath published a letter in The Times suggesting that "those who play the rugby-type game should meet to form a code of practice as various clubs play to rules which differ from others, which makes the game difficult to play." On 26 January 1871 a meeting attended by representatives from 21 clubs was held in London at the Pall Mall restaurant.[6]

The 21 clubs and schools (all from London or the Home Counties) attended the meeting: Addison, Belsize Park, Blackheath (represented by Burns and Frederick Stokes the latter becoming the first captain of England[7]), Civil Service, Clapham Rovers, Flamingoes, Gipsies, Guy’s Hospital, Harlequins, King's College, Lausanne, The Law Club, Marlborough Nomads, Mohicans, Queen’s House, Ravenscourt Park, Richmond, St Paul's, Wellington College, West Kent, and Wimbledon Hornets.[8] The one notable omission was the Wasps who "In true rugby fashion ... turned up at the wrong pub, on the wrong day, at the wrong time and so forfeited their right to be called Founder Members".[9]

As a result of this meeting the Rugby Football Union (RFU) was founded. Algernon Rutter was elected as the first president of the RFU and Edwin Ash was elected as treasurer. Three lawyers who were Rugby School alumni (Rutter, Holmes and L.J. Maton) drew up the first laws of the game which were approved in June 1871.[6]


Growth within the British Empire

According to the Australian Rugby Union, rugby football was an extremely early introduction to Australia, with games of the primitive code being played in the early to mid-19th century, and the first formal team, Sydney University Football Club being set up in 1864.[13] In 1869, Newington College was the first Australian school to play rugby in a match against the University of Sydney.[14] From this beginning, the first metropolitan competition in Australia developed, formally beginning in 1874.[13] This was organised by the Southern Rugby Union, which was administered by the rugby union at Twickenham, in England. Administration was given over to the Southern Rugby Union in 1881.

Introduction to New Zealand came later, but formal development took place around the same time as Australia. Christchurch Football Club, which is now the oldest rugby club in the country, was founded in 1863. Rugby football was first introduced to New Zealand in 1870 by Charles John Monro, son of the then-Speaker of the House of Representatives, David Monro.[15] He encountered the game while studying at Christ's College Finchley, in East Finchley, London, England, and on his return introduced the game to Nelson College, who played the first rugby union match against Nelson football club on 14 May.[16] By the following year, the game had been formalised in Wellington, and subsequently rugby was taken up in Wanganui and Auckland in 1873 and Hamilton in 1874. It is thought that by the mid-1870s, the game had been taken up by the majority of the colony.

When Canon George Ogilvie became headmaster of Diocesan College in Cape Town, South Africa in 1861, he introduced the game of football, as played at Winchester College. This version of football, which included handling of the ball, is seen as the beginnings of rugby in South Africa. In around 1875 rugby began to be played in the Cape Colony, the following year the first rugby (as opposed to Winchester football) club was formed. Former England international William Henry Milton arrived in Cape Town in 1878. He joined the Villagers club and started playing and preaching rugby. By the end of that year Cape Town had all but abandoned the Winchester game in favour of rugby. In 1883, the Stellenbosch club was formed in the predominantly Boer farming district outside Cape Town and rugby was enthusiastically adopted by the young Boer farmers. As British and Boer migrated to the interior they helped spread the game from the Cape colony through the Eastern Cape, and Natal, and along the gold and diamond routes to Kimberley and Johannesburg. However, for a number of years, South African rugby would be hindered by systemic racial segregation.

Source: via Juan on Pinterest

Early forms of rugby football were being played in Canada from 1823 onwards, in east Canadian towns such as Halifax, Montreal and Toronto.[17] Rugby football proper in Canada dates back to the 1860s.

Introduction of the game and its early growth is usually credited to settlers from Britain and the British army and navy in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Esquimalt, British Columbia. In 1864 the first recorded game of rugby in Canada took place in Montreal, Quebec amongst artillery men. It is most likely that rugby got its start in British Columbia in the late 1860s or early 1870s when brief mentions of "football" appeared in print. Canadian rugby, however, soon faced stiff competition from Canadian football.

International appeal

By the end of the 19th century, rugby football and rugby union had spread far and wide. This spread was by no means confined to the British Empire.

Rugby football was an early arrival in Germany, for example. The first German rugby team existed at Neuenheim College – now called Heidelberg College – in Heidelberg. Around 1850, the game started to attract the attention of the students. Students under the guidance of the teacher Edward Hill Ullrich were the ones who then founded the rugby department of the Heidelberger Ruderklub von 1872/Heidelberger Flaggenklub' was established. (HRK 1872) in 1891, which today claims to be the oldest German rugby club.[28] The oldest still existing rugby department within a club is that of DSV 78 Hannover, formed in 1878 by Ferdinand-Wilhelm Fricke. German rugby has traditionally been centred on Heidelberg and Hanover, but has spread over the entire country in recent decades.

In the United States, rugby football-like games were being played early. Princeton University students played a game called "ballown" in 1820, for example. All of these games remained largely "mob" style games, with huge numbers of players attempting to advance the ball into a goal area, often by any means necessary.[29][30] By the 1840s, Harvard, Yale and Princeton were all playing rugby football stemming partly from Americans who had been educated in English schools.[31] However, in 1862, Yale dealt it a major blow by banning it for being too violent and dangerous. Unfortunately American football's growth came at exactly the point at which rugby was beginning to establish itself in the States: in 1869, the first game of American football was played between Princeton and Rutgers, with rules substantially identical to rugby.[31] However, by 1882 the rules innovations of Walter Camp like the snap and downs had distinguished the American game from rugby.[21]

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Rugby union also reached South America early, a continent with few British colonies. The first rugby union match in Argentina was played in 1873, the game having been brought to South America by the British. In 1886 Buenos Aires Football Club played Rosario Athletic Club in Buenos Aires.[32] Early Argentinian rugby was not immune to political problems either. An 1890 game in Buenos Aires resulted in both teams, and all 2,500 spectators being arrested.[33] National president Juárez Celman was particularly paranoid after the Revolution of the Park in the city earlier in the year, and the police had suspected that the match was in fact a political meeting.[33] Rugby reached neighbouring Uruguay early, but it is disputed just how early. Cricket clubs were the incubators of rugby in South America, although rugby has survived much better in these countries than cricket has. It has been claimed that Montevideo Cricket Club (MVCC) played rugby football as early as 1865,[34] but the first certain match was between Uruguayans and British members of the MVCC in 1880.[34] The MVCC claims to be the oldest rugby club outside Europe.[35]

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Rugby also appears to have been the first (non-indigenous) football code to be played in Russia, around a decade before the introduction of association football.[36] Mr Hopper, a Scotsman, who worked in Moscow arranged a match in the 1880s; the first soccer match was in 1892.[36] In 1886, however, the Russian police clamped down on rugby because they considered it "brutal, and liable to incite demonstrations and riots"[36]

Source: via Juan on Pinterest


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  8. ^ World Rugby 1871 - 1888, RFU
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  18. ^ The Argus 16 May 1859
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  32. ^ Bath (1997) pp. 62–63
  33. ^ a b Cotton (1984), p.29
  34. ^ a b Richards (2007), p.54
  35. ^ Montevideo Cricket Club in history, p5, retrieved 31 August 2009
  36. ^ a b c Riordan (1977), p.22

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