Five key moments in the development of Rugby

000c6bbe-614Rugby has been a prominent sport in the UK, from an unassuming history to its popular spread today. In 2015 England held the Rugby World Cup. The game and its humble origins date back to the 1800s. Here we look at 5 major points in the development of rugby.

An ‘accidental’ discovery

Although there is still disagreement about the precise origins, what is commonly agreed upon is that the game of rugby came about in 1823 in the field of the school of Rugby situated in Warwickshire, England. As the legend goes a pupil by the name of William Webb Ellis defied the rules of an already existing game whereby players would catch a ball, but Williams started running forwards with it. This was not part of the rules, and so did rugby come about. To this day there are several rugby equipment companies that have their name inspired by the name Ellis.


Around 1845 saw the surfacing of the first set of rugby rules. It was created by three experienced rugby school pupils and comprising 37 points. Interestingly point #20 allowed the game to go on for a maximum of 5 days – with the allowance of a break for sleep factored in.


In the year 1871 due to the need to control the breaking of rules, the Rugby Football Union was established to standardise the rules of the game. 1873 marked the creation of many home unions such as the Scottish Football Union in 1873.

Spreading to the Colonies

1874 marked the significant spread of the game abroad at first to British colonies and then further across the globe. This spread was helped in large part by British troops abroad who played it where they were stationed.

The payment discussion

This occurred in 1893 and was marked by internal disagreement within the sport. This was over whether rugby players should be paid and therefore professional while the other half of the game wanted to keep it strictly amateur.