Rugby is a type of football developed at Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, one of many versions of football played at English public schools in the 19th century. The two main types of rugby are rugby league and rugby union. Although rugby league initially used rugby union rules, they are now wholly separate sports.
Following the 1895 split in rugby football, the two forms rugby league and rugby union differed in administration only. Soon the rules of rugby league were modified, resulting in two distinctly different forms of rugby. After 100 years, in 1995 rugby union joined rugby league and most other forms of football as an openly professional sport.
The Greeks and Romans are known to have played many ball games, some of which involved the use of the feet. The Roman game harpastum is believed to have been adapted from a Greek team game known as "ἐπίσκυρος" (Episkyros) or "φαινίνδα" (phaininda), which is mentioned by a Greek playwright, Antiphanes (388–311 BC) and later referred to by the Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.215 AD). These games appear to have resembled rugby football. The Roman politician Cicero (106–42 BC) describes the case of a man who was killed whilst having a shave when a ball was kicked into a barber's shop. Roman ball games already knew the air-filled ball, the follis. Episkyros is recognised as an early form of football by FIFA.
In 1871, English clubs met to form the Rugby Football Union (RFU). In 1892, after charges of professionalism (compensation of team members) were made against some clubs for paying players for missing work, the Northern Rugby Football Union, usually called the Northern Union (NU), was formed. The existing rugby union authorities responded by issuing sanctions against the clubs, players, and officials involved in the new organization. After the schism, the separate clubs were named "rugby league" and "rugby union".
Global status of rugby codes
Rugby union is both a professional and amateur game, and is dominated by the first tier unions: Argentina, Australia, England, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales. Second and third tier unions include Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Fiji, Georgia, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Namibia, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Spain, Tonga, the United States, Uruguay and Venezuela. Rugby Union is administered by World Rugby (WR), whose headquarters are located in Dublin, Ireland. It is the national sport in New Zealand, Wales, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Madagascar, and is the most popular form of rugby globally. The Olympic Games have admitted the seven-a-side version of the game, known as Rugby sevens, into the programme from Rio de Janeiro in 2016 onwards. There was a possibility sevens would be a demonstration sport at the 2012 London Olympics but many sports including sevens were dropped.
In Canada and the United States, rugby union evolved into gridiron football. During the late 1800s (and even the early 1900s), the two forms of the game were very similar (to the point where the United States was able to win the gold medal for rugby union at the 1924 Summer Olympics), but numerous rule changes have differentiated the gridiron-based game from its rugby counterpart. Among unique features of the North American game are the separation of play into downs instead of releasing the ball immediately upon tackling, the requirement that the team with the ball set into a set formation for at least one second before resuming play after a tackle (and the allowance of up to 40 seconds to do so), the allowance for one forward pass from behind the site of the last tackle on each down, the evolution of hard plastic equipment (particularly the football helmet and shoulder pads), a smaller and pointier ball that is favorable to being passed but makes drop kicks impractical, a generally smaller and narrower field measured in customary units instead of metric (in some variants of the American game a field can be as short as 50 yards between end zones), and a distinctive field (shaped like a gridiron, from which the code's nickname is derived) with lines marked in five-yard intervals.
Rugby league is also both a professional and amateur game, administered on a global level by the Rugby League International Federation. In addition to amateur and semi-professional competitions in the United States, Russia, Lebanon, Serbia, Europe and Australasia, there are two major professional competitions—the Australasian National Rugby League and the European Super League. International Rugby League is dominated by Australia, England and New Zealand. In Papua New Guinea it is the national sport. Other nations from the South Pacific and Europe also play in the Pacific Cup and European Cup respectively.
Distinctive features common to both rugby codes include the oval ball and throwing the ball forward is not allowed, so that players can gain ground only by running with the ball or by kicking it. As the sport of rugby league moved further away from its union counterpart, rule changes were implemented with the aim of making a faster-paced and more try-orientated game.
The main differences between the two games, besides league having teams of 13 players and union of 15, involve the tackle and its aftermath:
Set pieces of the union code include the "scrum", in which packs of opposing players push against each other for possession, and the "line-out", in which parallel lines of players from each team, arranged perpendicular to the touch-line, attempt to catch the ball thrown from touch. A rule has been added to line-outs which allows the jumper to be pulled down once a players's feet are on the ground.
In the league code, the scrum still exists, but with greatly reduced importance as it involves fewer players and is rarely contested. Set pieces are generally started from the play-the-ball situation. Many of the rugby league positions have similar names and requirements to rugby union positions, but there are no flankers in rugby league.
In England, rugby union is widely regarded as an "establishment" sport, played mostly by members of the upper and middle classes. For example, many pupils at public schools and grammar schools play rugby union, although the game (which had a long history of being played at state schools until the 1980s) is becoming increasingly popular in comprehensive schools. Despite this stereotype, the game, particularly in the West Country is popular amongst all classes. In contrast, rugby league has traditionally been seen as a working class pursuit. Another exception to rugby union's upper class stereotype is in Wales, where it has been traditionally associated with small village teams made up of coal miners and other industrial workers who played on their days off. In Ireland, rugby union is a unifying force across the national and sectarian divide, with the Ireland international team representing both political entities.
In Australia, support for both codes is concentrated in New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory. The same perceived class barrier as exists between the two games in England also occurs in these states, fostered by rugby union's prominence and support at private schools.
Exceptions to the above include New Zealand (although rugby league is still considered to be a lower class game by many or a game for 'westies' referring to lower class western suburbs of Auckland and more recently, southern Auckland where the game is also popular), Wales, France (except Paris), Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Scottish Borders, County Limerick (see Munster) and the Pacific Islands, where rugby union is popular in working class communities. Nevertheless, rugby league is perceived as the game of the working-class people in northern England and in the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland.
In the United Kingdom, rugby union fans sometimes used the term "rugger" as an alternative name for the sport, (see Oxford '-er'), although this archaic expression has not had currency since the 1950s or earlier. New Zealanders refer to rugby union simply as either "rugby" or "union", or even simply "football", and to rugby league as "rugby league" or "league". In the U.S., people who play rugby are sometimes called "ruggers", a term little used elsewhere except facetiously.
Those considered to be heavily involved with the rugby union lifestyle—including heavy drinking and striped jumpers
In France, rugby is widely played and has a strong tradition in the Basque, Occitan and Catalan areas along the border regions between Spain and France. The game is very popular in South Africa, having been introduced by English-speaking settlers in the 19th century. British colonists also brought the game with them to Australia and New Zealand, where the game is widely played. It has spread thence to much of Polynesia, having particularly strong followings in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Rugby union continues to grow in the Americas and parts of Asia as well.
A rugby ball, originally called a quanco, is a diamond shape ball used for easier passing. Richard Lindon and Bernardo Solano started making balls for Rugby school out of hand stitched, four-panel, leather casings and pigs’ bladders. The rugby ball's distinctive shape is supposedly due to the pig’s bladder, although early balls were more plumb-shape than oval. The balls varied in size in the beginning depending upon how large the pig’s bladder was.
In rugby union, World Rugby regulates the size and shape of the ball under Law 2 (also known as Law E.R.B); an official rugby union ball is oval and made of four panels, has a length in-line of 280–300 millimetres, a circumference (end to end) of 740–770 millimetres, and a circumference (in width) of 580–620 millimetres. It is made of leather or suitable synthetic material, and may be treated to make it water resistant and easier to grip. The rugby ball may not weigh more than 460 grams or less than 410 and has an air pressure of 65.71–68.75 kilopascals, or 0.67–0.70 kilograms per square centimetre, or 9.5–10.0 lbs per square inch. Spare balls are allowed under the condition that players or teams do not seek an advantage by changing the ball. Smaller sized balls may also be used in games between younger players. Much larger versions of traditional balls are also available for purchase, but these are mainly for their novelty attraction.
The Rugby World Cup, which was first held in New Zealand and Australia in 1987, occurs every four years. It is an international tournament organized by World Rugby. The event is played in the union format and features the top 20 teams from around the world.
The current world champions are New Zealand, who won the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which was played in England
The Rugby League World Cup was first held in France in 1954, and as of 2013 occurs on a 4-year cycle. It is an international tournament that is organized by the Rugby League International Federation. The event is played in the league format and features the top 14 teams from around the world.
The current world champions are Australia, who won the world cup in 2013, played in England, Wales, France and Ireland.
Rugby shirts were formerly made of cotton but are now made of a cotton and polyester mix. This material has the advantage of not absorbing as much water or mud as cotton alone. Owing to the more aggressive nature of the game, rugby clothing in general is designed to be much more robust and hardwearing than that worn for soccer.
The rugby jerseys are slightly different depending on the type of rugby game played. The shirts worn by rugby league players commonly have a large "V" around the neck. The players in rugby union wear jerseys with a more traditional design, sometimes completely white (Cahors Rugby in France). The number of the player and his or her surname are placed on the upper back of the jersey (often name above number, with the number being significantly larger and more central), and the logo of the team on the upper left chest.
With the popularity of rugby over the years, many betting establishments have made it possible for viewers of the game to place wagers on games. The various types of wagers that can be placed on games vary, however the main types of bets that can be placed are as follows:
Like most team sports, both forms of rugby are vulnerable to match fixing, particularly bets involving easily manipulated outcomes, such as conceding penalties and first point scorer. A recent example is a deliberate infringement by Ryan Tandy in order for the first points scored to be a penalty goal in a 2010 NRL match; the attempt backfired when instead of taking a shot at goal, a try was scored.