Although the sport of rugby only came into existence during the early part of the 19th century, today it is an extremely popular sport, played in countries all over the world. The biggest international matches see huge crowds in attendance and attract the attention of the world’s media, so it is easy to see why there are so many interesting facts about the game. Here are some things you may not know about rugby football.
· It is believed that rugby was first invented as a sport in 1823 at Rugby School by a boy called William Webb Ellis who, during a game of football, caught the ball and, instead of kicking it, ran down the field holding it.
· Originally, rugby balls had the shape of a plum since they were made using pigs’ bladders which had this distinctive shape.
· In early games of rugby, tries had no value, however they did permit the attacking team to attempt or “try” to kick the ball at the goal. If they were successful, the “try” was turned into a goal, and hence the name came about.
· The whistle that is used to open every World Cup rugby match to date is actually the one that was used in the England vs. New Zealand match of 1905 by Gil Evans, the Welsh referee.
· The earliest recognised reference in the Oxford English Dictionary that relates to rugby football is from 1852.
· Officially, rugby union was only recognised as a professional sport as recently as 1995.
· As rugby balls were originally made using pigs’ bladders and were inflated using only breath, it was possible for someone to get ill from blowing up diseased bladders. The man who produced rugby balls for Rugby School during the 1800s, Richard Lindon’s wife actually died from blowing up a lot of diseased bladders.
Facts About Famous Players and Teams
· While not exactly a famous player, William Webb Ellis is credited with inventing the game of rugby, however his success was in a different sport. He went on to Oxford University after leaving Rugby School and won a Blue for the sport of cricket. Eventually, he went into the Anglican church as a clergyman.
· Arguably, rugby’s most famous team is the All Blacks from New Zealand. They won the first Rugby World Cup which was held in 1987 and are best known for performing the Haka before every match.
· Jonah Lomu from New Zealand was the first superstar of rugby and is still a very recognisable figure in the sport. To date, he still holds the record for the greatest number of tries scored in the history of the Rugby World Cup with a total of 15. Despite weighing 18 stone, Lomu was able to run 100 metres in just 11 seconds when he was in his prime.
· While not famous for playing the sport, rugby has been popular with many famous people including ex-President of the United States, Bill Clinton, Pope John Paul and actor Sean Connery.
· Rugby is well known for its large-framed players, however one of the heaviest of them all is Bill Cavabuti. Known as Big Bill, this colossal player stands at 6 foot 2 and weighed 160 kg when he played on the international stage.
· The world’s oldest surviving rugby player is Harry Walker. He reached the age of 100 in 2015 having made his rugby debut for England in 1947 at Twickenham when he was aged 32. Between 1947 and 1948 he earned 9 caps for England playing against Australia and in every Five Nations match.