Rugby first started in England in the mid 19th century, at the eponymous Rugby School, where students first began to pick up the football during games and run with them. Over a period of 20 to 30 years, this variant of play became more and more common throughout the United Kingdom, and games became more formalised.
By the 1870s, hundreds of small rugby clubs had formed across the country, and the sport was beginning to get an international following. The first major international multi-team tournaments began to take place in the 1880’s, and many countries have not looked back since.
By the 1890’s, an oval ball became compulsory in all matches, rather than using a near spherical ball, as had been used in the earliest incarnations of the sport.
Over the course of the next century, different factions of rugby began to emerge, and professionalism’s developed within each of these factions. The rules of both Rugby League and Rugby Union were codified, and new rules were added to help to further develop the sport and promote sportsmanlike competition. Rugby is now played competitively and in amateur games all around the world.
Which countries play Rugby?
Although there are rugby fans in almost every country in the world, certain countries are more well-known for their rugby than others. In the most part, rugby tends to be more popular in former Commonwealth countries, and countries that were part of the former British Empire, however there are many other countries where rugby is popular. This includes Russia, Portugal, Italy, France, Brazil, Japan, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Rugby is actually considered to be the national sport of some countries. This means that the sport has developed as part of the culture of that nation, and is therefore intrinsically linked with that culture. States which have Rugby Union as their national sport include: Samoa, Fiji, Wales, Madagascar, New Zealand, and Tonga. Whilst Rugby Union is the more common variant, Rugby League is also played in many countries worldwide.
Some variants of rugby have also developed in other nations, which are no longer considered to be considered part of “rugby” itself. These include American Football and Canadian Football. Because of the way that these games have developed in their own rights, they are no longer considered to be part of the rugby discipline.
What forms of Rugby are widely played?
At present, 4 main forms of rugby are enjoyed worldwide; rugby league, rugby union; rugby sevens and tag rugby. Each form of rugby has its own unique set of rules and regulations, although there are also many shared characteristics. In all forms of rugby, the aim is to score the most points, using a variety of different scoring methods, such as tries, conversions and goals.
The most pronounced difference between rugby league and rugby union is the number of players per side. Whilst rugby league teams compete with 13 people per side, rugby union teams play with 15. As there are fewer players in rugby league, some may argue it makes for a much faster game, and players have to exhibit speed and dexterity. Gameplay in Rugby Union can be slower and more tactical. There are far more rules involved in the game, and it can be difficult to understand without prior knowledge.
Rugby Sevens is similar to Rugby Union in terms of the rules of the game; however there are only 7 active players per side. As the halves are much shorter, the gameplay is much quicker, with less stoppage time. As games are less intensive and tournaments can be slim-lined down into a weekend, Rugby Sevens is often considered a popular variant with which to showcase rugby on the international stage.
Tag Rugby and touch rugby have been developed to encourage people to get involved in rugby who may be otherwise discouraged by playing a full-contact game where injuries are common. In tag rugby, players simulate tackles by ripping a Velcro strip from the player that they are tackling. Once a player has been “tackled” in this way, play proceeds as it would in the full-contact variant. Tag rugby can be used as a training exercise in either rugby union or rugby league, or it may also be used as an introductory game for children.