Rugby union

Rugby union

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Rugby union, often simply referred to as rugby, is a full contact team sport which originated in England in the early 19th century. One of the two codes
Comparison of rugby league and rugby union
A comparison of rugby league and rugby union is possible because of the games' similarities and shared origins. In English rugby football, towards the end of the 19th century, a schism developed over the way the sport was run; one of the major disputes was between those who favoured strict...

 of rugby football
Rugby football
Rugby football is a style of football named after Rugby School in the United Kingdom. It is seen most prominently in two current sports, rugby league and rugby union.-History:...

, it is based on running with the ball in hand. It is played with an oval-shaped ball on a field up to 100 metres (328.1 ft) long and 70 metres (229.7 ft) wide with H-shaped goal posts on each goal line.

William Webb Ellis
William Webb Ellis
Rev. William Webb Ellis was an Anglican clergyman who is famous for allegedly being the inventor of Rugby football whilst a pupil at Rugby School....

 is often credited with the invention of running with the ball in hand in 1823 at Rugby School
Rugby School
Rugby School is a co-educational day and boarding school located in the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, England. It is one of the oldest independent schools in Britain.-History:...

 when he allegedly caught the ball while playing football and ran towards the opposition goal. However, the evidence for the story is doubtful. In 1845, the first football laws were written by Rugby School pupils; other significant events in the early development of rugby include the Blackheath Club's decision to leave the Football Association
The Football Association
The Football Association, also known as simply The FA, is the governing body of football in England, and the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. It was formed in 1863, and is the oldest national football association...

 in 1863 and the split between rugby union and rugby league
Rugby league
Rugby league football, usually called rugby league, is a full contact sport played by two teams of thirteen players on a rectangular grass field. One of the two codes of rugby football, it originated in England in 1895 by a split from Rugby Football Union over paying players...

 in 1895. Historically an amateur sport, in 1995 the International Rugby Board
International Rugby Board
The International Rugby Board is the governing body for the sport of rugby union. It was founded in 1886 as the International Rugby Football Board by the unions of Scotland, Wales and Ireland. England refused to join until 1890. The International Rugby Football Board changed its name to the...

 (IRB) removed restrictions on payments to players, making the game openly professional at the highest level for the first time.

The IRB has been the governing body for rugby union since its formation in 1886. The spread of rugby union grew from the Home Nations
Home Nations
Home Nations is a collective term with one of two meanings depending on the context. Politically, it means the nations of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom...

 of Great Britain and Ireland, and was absorbed by many of the countries associated with the British Empire. Early exponents of the sport included Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Countries that have adopted rugby union as their de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

 national sport include Fiji, Georgia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga and Wales. Rugby union is played in over 100 countries across six continents and as of November 2010 118 unions were members of the IRB.

The Rugby World Cup
Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup is an international rugby union competition organised by the International Rugby Board and held every four years since 1987....

, first held in 1987, takes place every four years, with the winner of the tournament receiving the Webb Ellis Cup
Webb Ellis Cup
The Webb Ellis Cup is the trophy awarded to the winner of the Rugby World Cup. The Cup is named after William Webb Ellis, who is often credited as the inventor of rugby football. The trophy is silver gilt and has been presented to the winner of the Rugby World Cup since the first competition in 1987...

. The Six Nations Championship
Six Nations Championship
The Six Nations Championship is an annual international rugby union competition involving six European sides: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales....

 in Europe and The Rugby Championship in the Southern Hemisphere (the latter replacing the Tri Nations) are major international competitions held annually. Major domestic competitions include the Top 14 in France, the English Premiership in England, the Currie Cup
Currie Cup
The Currie Cup tournament is South Africa's premier domestic rugby union competition, played each winter and spring , featuring teams representing either entire provinces or substantial regions within provinces...

 in South Africa, and the ITM Cup in New Zealand. Other transnational competitions include the Celtic League
Celtic League (rugby union)
The Celtic League is an annual rugby union competition involving professional sides from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales....

, originally involving Irish, Scottish and Welsh teams and now Italian teams as well; Super Rugby (previously Super 12 and Super 14), involving South African, Australian and New Zealand teams; and the Heineken Cup
Heineken Cup
The Heineken Cup is one of two annual rugby union competitions organised by European Rugby Cup involving leading club, regional and provincial teams from the six International Rugby Board countries in Europe whose national teams compete in the Six Nations Championship: England, France, Ireland,...

, involving the top European teams from their respective domestic competitions.

History




The origin of rugby football is reputed to be an incident during a game of English school football
English public school football games
During the early modern era students, former students and teachers at English public schools developed and wrote down the first codes of football, most notably the Eton College...

 at Rugby School in 1823 when William Webb-Ellis is said to have picked up the ball and run with it. Although the evidence for the story is doubtful, it was immortalised at the school with a plaque
Commemorative plaque
A commemorative plaque, or simply plaque, is a plate of metal, ceramic, stone, wood, or other material, typically attached to a wall, stone, or other vertical surface, and bearing text in memory of an important figure or event...

 unveiled in 1895. Despite the anecdotal nature of the sport's origin, the Rugby World Cup trophy
Webb Ellis Cup
The Webb Ellis Cup is the trophy awarded to the winner of the Rugby World Cup. The Cup is named after William Webb Ellis, who is often credited as the inventor of rugby football. The trophy is silver gilt and has been presented to the winner of the Rugby World Cup since the first competition in 1987...

 is named after him. Rugby football stems from the form of game played at Rugby School, which former pupils then brought to university; Old Rugbeian Albert Pell
Albert Pell
Albert Pell was an English solicitor and Conservative Party politician.-Early life:Pell was born in 1820, the eldest son of Sir Albert Pell, a judge of the Bancruptcy Courts and Margaret Letitia Matilda St John, daughter of John St John, 12th Baron St John of Bletso...

, a student at Cambridge, is credited with having formed the first 'football' team. During this early period different schools used different rules, with former pupils from Rugby and Eton
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 attempting to carry their preferred rules through to their universities.

Significant events in the early development of rugby football were the production of the first set of written football laws at Rugby School in 1845, which was followed by the 'Cambridge Rules' drawn up in 1848. Other important events include the Blackheath Club's decision to leave the Football Association in 1863 and the formation of the Rugby Football Union
Rugby Football Union
The Rugby Football Union was founded in 1871 as the governing body for the sport of rugby union, and performed as the international governing body prior to the formation of the International Rugby Board in 1886...

 in 1871. The code was originally known as "rugby football"; it was not until after the schism in England in 1895, which resulted in the separate code of rugby league
Rugby league
Rugby league football, usually called rugby league, is a full contact sport played by two teams of thirteen players on a rectangular grass field. One of the two codes of rugby football, it originated in England in 1895 by a split from Rugby Football Union over paying players...

, that the sport took on the name "rugby union" to differentiate it from the league game. Despite the sport's full name of rugby union, it is known simply as rugby throughout most of the world.

The first rugby football international
1870-71 Home Nations rugby union matches
The 1870-71 Home Nations rugby union matches was a single international friendly held between the England and Scotland national rugby union teams...

 took place on 27 March 1871, played between England and Scotland. By 1881 both Ireland and Wales had representative teams, and in 1883 the first international competition, the Home Nations Championship
Six Nations Championship
The Six Nations Championship is an annual international rugby union competition involving six European sides: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales....

 had begun. 1883 was also the year the first rugby sevens
Rugby sevens
Rugby sevens, also known as seven-a-side or VIIs, is a variant of rugby union in which teams are made up of seven players, instead of the usual 15, with shorter matches. Rugby sevens is administered by the International Rugby Board , the body responsible for rugby union worldwide...

 tournament at Melrose
Melrose, Scotland
Melrose is a small town and civil parish in the Scottish Borders, historically in Roxburghshire. It is in the Eildon committee area.-Etymology:...

, the Melrose Sevens
Melrose Sevens
Melrose Sevens is an annual rugby sevens event held by Melrose Rugby Club, in Melrose, Scotland. It is the oldest rugby sevens competition dating from 1883, when the tournament was suggested by former Melrose player Ned Haig....

, which is still held annually. Five years later two important overseas tours took place; a British Isles
1888 British Lions tour to New Zealand and Australia
The 1888 British Isles tour to New Zealand and Australia was a series of rugby union games played by an unofficial British team against invitational teams in New Zealand and Australia...

 team visited Australia and New Zealand—although a private venture, it laid the foundations for future British and Irish Lions
British and Irish Lions
The British and Irish Lions is a rugby union team made up of players from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales...

 tours; and the 1888 New Zealand Native team brought the first overseas team to British spectators.

Between 1905 and 1908, all three major Southern Hemisphere rugby countries sent their first touring teams to the Northern Hemisphere: New Zealand  in 1905, followed by South Africa in 1906 and then Australia
1908-09 Australia rugby union tour of Britain
The 1908-09 Australia rugby union tour of the British Isles was a collection of friendly rugby union games undertaken by the Australia national rugby union team against invitational and national teams from England and Wales, as well as several games against sides from North America...

 in 1908. All three teams brought new styles of play, fitness levels and tactics, and were far more successful than critics had expected. The New Zealand 1905 touring team performed a haka
Ka Mate
"Ka Mate" is a Māori haka composed by Te Rauparaha, war leader of the Ngāti Toa tribe of the North Island of New Zealand.-The creation and composition of Ka Mate:...

 before each match, leading Welsh Rugby Union administrator Tom Williams
Tom Williams (Welsh rugby player)
Thomas Williams was a Welsh rugby union forward who played club rugby for Cardiff and Pontypridd and international rugby for Wales. A solicitor by profession, Williams would later become a national selector for the Welsh Rugby Union...

 to suggest that Wales player Teddy Morgan
Teddy Morgan
Edward "Teddy" Morgan was a Welsh international rugby union player. He was a member of the winning Wales team who beat the 1905 touring All Blacks and is remembered for scoring the winning try...

 lead the crowd in singing the Welsh National Anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau
Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau
Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau is the national anthem of Wales. The title – taken from the first words of the song – means "Old Land of My Fathers", usually rendered in English as simply "Land of My Fathers". The words were written by Evan James and the tune composed by his son, James James, both residents...

, as a response. After Morgan began singing, the crowd joined in: the first time a national anthem was sung at the start of a sporting event. In 1905 France played England in its first international match.

No international rugby games and union-sponsored club matches were played during the First World War, but competitions continued through service teams such as the New Zealand Army team
New Zealand Army rugby team of 1919
The New Zealand Army rugby team of 1919 was a rugby union team which represented New Zealand after the end of the First World War. Although spoken of as a single team, there were several New Zealand Services teams playing in Britain at the conclusion of the War...

. During the Second World War no international matches played by most countries though Italy, Germany and Romania played a limited number of games, and Cambridge
Cambridge University R.U.F.C.
The Cambridge University Rugby Union Football Club, or CURUFC, is the rugby union club of Cambridge University, and plays Oxford University in the annual Varsity Match at Twickenham stadium every December. CURUFC players wear light blue and white hooped jerseys with a red lion crest...

 and Oxford
Oxford University RFC
The Oxford University Rugby Football Club is the rugby union club of the University of Oxford. The club contests The Varsity Match every year against Cambridge University at Twickenham.-History:...

 continued their annual University Match
The Varsity Match
The Varsity Match is an annual rugby union fixture played between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in England. By tradition, the match is held on the second Tuesday of December. In 2005, however, this changed, and the match was on Tuesday 6 December. In 2007, it was held on a Thursday for...

.

Rugby union was included as an event in the Olympic Games four times during the early 1900s. In 1973 the first officially sanctioned international sevens tournament took place at Murrayfield, as part of the Scottish Rugby Union
Scottish Rugby Union
The Scottish Rugby Union is the governing body of rugby union in Scotland. It is the second oldest Rugby Union, having been founded in 1873, as the Scottish Football Union.-History:...

 centenary celebrations. In 1987 the first Rugby World Cup was held in New Zealand and Australia, and the inaugural winners were New Zealand. The first World Cup Sevens tournament was held at Murrayfield in 1993. Rugby Sevens was introduced into the Commonwealth Games in 1998 and is due to be added to the Olympic Games by 2016.

Rugby union was an amateur sport until the IRB declared the game 'open' in 1995, removing restrictions on payments to players. However, the pre-1995 period of rugby union was marked by frequent accusations of "shamateurism", including an investigation in Britain by a House of Commons Select committee. Following the introduction of professionalism trans-national club competitions were started, with the Heineken Cup
Heineken Cup
The Heineken Cup is one of two annual rugby union competitions organised by European Rugby Cup involving leading club, regional and provincial teams from the six International Rugby Board countries in Europe whose national teams compete in the Six Nations Championship: England, France, Ireland,...

 in the Northern Hemisphere and Super Rugby in the Southern Hemisphere. The Tri-nations, an annual international tournament involving South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, kicked off in 1996.

Teams and team structures




Each team starts the match with 15 players on the field. Players in a team are divided into eight forwards (two more than in rugby league
Rugby league
Rugby league football, usually called rugby league, is a full contact sport played by two teams of thirteen players on a rectangular grass field. One of the two codes of rugby football, it originated in England in 1895 by a split from Rugby Football Union over paying players...

) and seven backs.

Forwards


The main responsibilities of the forward players are to gain and retain possession of the ball. Players in these positions are generally bigger and stronger and take part in the scrum and lineout. The forwards are often collectively referred to as the 'pack', especially when in the scrum formation.

Front row

The front row consists of three players, two props; the loosehead prop and the tighthead prop, and the hooker. The role of the two props are to support the hooker during scrums, to provide support for the jumpers during lineouts and to provide strength and power in rucks and mauls. The third position in the front row is the hooker. The hooker is a key position in attacking and defensive play and is responsible for winning the ball in the scrum. Hookers normally throw the ball in at lineouts.

Second row

The second row consists of two locks or lock forwards. Locks are usually the tallest players in the team, and specialise as lineout jumpers. The main role of the lock in lineouts is to make a standing jump, often supported by the other forwards, to either collect the thrown ball or ensure the ball comes down on their side. Locks also have an important role in the scrum, binding directly behind the three front row players and providing forward drive.

Back row

The back row, not to be confused with ‘Backs’, is the third and final row of the forward positions, they are often referred to as the loose forwards. The three positions in the back row are made up of two flankers and the number 8. The two flanker positions, called the blindside flanker and openside flanker, are the final row in the scrum. Their main role is to win possession through 'turn overs'. The number 8 packs down between the two flankers at the back of the scrum. His role in the scrum is to control the ball after it has been heeled back from the front of the pack and the position provides a link between the forwards and backs during attacking phases.

Backs


The role of the backs is to create and convert point-scoring opportunities, they are generally smaller but faster and more agile than the forwards. Another distinction between the two positions is that the backs are expected to have superior kicking skills, especially in the positions of fly-half and full-back.

Half-backs

The half-backs consist of two positions, the scrum-half/half-back and the fly-half/First Five-Eighth. The fly-half is crucial to a team's game plan, orchestrating the teams performance. They are usually the first to receive the ball from the scrum-half following a breakdown, lineout or scrum and need to be decisive with what actions to take and be effective at communicating with the outside backs. Many fly-halfs are also their team's goal kickers. The scrum-half is the link between the forwards and the backs. They receive the ball from the lineout and remove the ball from the back of the scrum, usually passing it to the fly-half. They also feed the scrum and sometimes have to act as a fourth loose forward.

Three quarters

There are four three quarter positions, the inside centre/Second Five-Eighth, outside centre and left and right wings. Like the fly-half they generally possess a good kicking game and are good at reading the play and directing the attack. The centres will attempt to tackle attacking players whilst in attack they should employ speed and strength to breach opposition defences. The wings are generally positioned on the outside of the backline. Their primary function is to finish off moves and score tries. Wings are usually the fastest players in the team and are either elusive runners, or more commonly in the modern era, big, strong and able to break tackles.

Fullbacks

The fullback normally positions himself several metres behind the back line. He fields any opposition kicks and is often the last line of defence should an opponent break through the back line. Two of the most important attributes of a good fullback are dependable catching skills and a good kicking game.

Laws




Scoring


Rugby union is played between two teams – the one which scores more points wins the game. Points can be scored in several ways: a try
Try
A try is the major way of scoring points in rugby league and rugby union football. A try is scored by grounding the ball in the opposition's in-goal area...

, scored by grounding the ball in the in-goal area (between the goal line and the dead ball line), is worth 5 points and a subsequent conversion kick scores 2 points; a successful penalty kick or a drop goal each score 3 points. The values of each of these scoring methods have been changed over the years.

The playing field


The field of play on a rugby pitch is as near as possible to a maximum of 144m long by 70m wide. In actual gameplay there should be a maximum of 100m between the two trylines, with anywhere between 10 and 22m behind each try line to serve as the dead ball area. There are several lines crossing it, notably the half way line, the "twenty two", which is 22m from the goal line.

Rugby goalposts are H-shaped, and consist of two poles, 5.6m apart, connected by a horizontal crossbar 3m above the ground. The original pitch dimensions were in imperial units, but have since been converted to the metric system
Metric system
The metric system is an international decimalised system of measurement. France was first to adopt a metric system, in 1799, and a metric system is now the official system of measurement, used in almost every country in the world...

.

Match structure


At the beginning of the game, the captains and the referee toss a coin to decide which team will kick off first. Play then starts with a drop kick, with the players chasing the ball into the opposition's territory, and the other side trying to retrieve the ball and advance it. If the player with the ball is tackled, frequently a ruck will result.

Games are divided into 40-minute halves, with a break
Half-time
In some team sports such as association football and rugby, matches are played in two halves. Half-time is the name given to the interval between the two halves of the match...

 in the middle. The sides exchange ends of the field after the half-time break. Stoppages for injury or to allow the referee to take disciplinary action, do not count as part of the playing time, so that the elapsed time is usually longer than 80 minutes. The referee is responsible for keeping time, even when—as in many professional tournaments—he is assisted by an official time-keeper. If time expires while the ball is in play, the game continues until the ball is 'dead', and only then will the referee blow the whistle to signal half-time or full-time; but if the referee awards a penalty or free-kick, the game continues.

Passing and kicking


Forward passing (throwing the ball ahead to another player) is not allowed; the ball can be passed laterally or backwards. The ball tends to be moved forward in three ways — by kicking, by a player running with it or within a scrum or maul. Only the player with the ball may be tackled or rucked. When a ball is knocked forward by a player with his/her arms, a "knock-on" is committed, and play is restarted with a scrum.

Any player may kick the ball forward in an attempt to gain territory. When a player anywhere in the playing area kicks indirectly into touch
Touch (rugby)
Touch is the area outside two touch-lines which define the sides of the playing area in a game of rugby football. As the touch-lines are not part of the playing area they are usually included as part of touch....

 so that the ball bounces in the field of play the throw-in is taken where the ball went into touch. If the player kicks directly into touch (i.e. without bouncing in-field first) from within their own 22 metre line the lineout is taken by the opposition where the ball went into touch, but if the ball is kicked into touch directly by a player outside the 22 metre line the lineout is taken level to where the kick was taken.

Breakdowns



The aim of the defending side is to stop the player with the ball, either by bringing them to ground (a tackle, which is frequently followed by a ruck), or by contesting for possession with the ball-carrier on their feet (a maul). Such a circumstance is called a breakdown and each is governed by a specific law.

A player may tackle an opposing player who has the ball by holding them while bringing them to ground. Tacklers cannot tackle above the shoulder (the neck and head are out of bounds), and the tackler has to attempt to wrap their arms around the player being tackled to complete the tackle. It is illegal to push, shoulder-charge, or to trip a player using feet or legs, but hands may be used (this being referred to as a tap-tackle or ankle-tap
Ankle tap
An ankle-tap or tap-tackle is a form of tackle used in rugby league or rugby union.It is used when the player carrying the ball is running at speed and a defending player is approaching from behind...

).

Mauls occur after a player with the ball has come into contact with an opponent but the handler remains on his feet; once any combination of at least three players have bound themselves a maul has been set. A ruck is similar to the maul, but in this case the ball has gone to ground with at least three attacking players binding themselves on the ground in an attempt to secure the ball.

Set pieces



Lineout



When the ball leaves the side of the field, a lineout is awarded against the team which last touched the ball. Forward players from each team line up a metre apart, perpendicular to the touchline and between 5 m and 15 m from the touchline. The ball is thrown from the touchline down the centre of the lines of forwards by a player (usually the hooker) from the team that did not play the ball into touch. The exception to this is when the ball went out from a penalty, in which case the side who gained the penalty throws the ball in.

Both sides compete for the ball and players may lift their teammates. A jumping player cannot be tackled until they stand and only shoulder-to-shoulder contact is allowed; deliberate infringement of this law is dangerous play, and results in a penalty kick.

Scrum




A scrum is a way of restarting the game safely and fairly after a minor infringement. It is awarded when the ball has been knocked or passed forward, when a player is accidentally offside or when the ball is trapped in a ruck or maul with no realistic chance of being retrieved. A team may also opt for a scrum if awarded a penalty.

A scrum is formed by the eight forwards from each team binding together in three rows. The front row consists of the two props (loosehead and tighthead) either side of the hooker. The second row consists of two locks and the two flankers. Behind the second row is the number 8. This formation is known as the 3–4–1 formation. Once a scrum is formed the scrum-half from the team awarded the feed throws the ball into the gap between the two front-rows known as the tunnel. The two hookers then compete for possession by hooking the ball backwards with their feet, while each pack tries to push the opposing pack backwards to help gain possession. The side that wins possession transfers the ball to the back of the scrum, where it is picked up either by the number 8 or by the scrum-half.

Officials and offences


There are three match officials: a referee, and two assistant referees. The latter, formerly known as touch judges, had the primary function of indicating when the ball had gone "touch"; their role has been expanded and they are now expected to assist the referee in a number of areas, such as watching for foul play and checking off-side lines. In addition, for matches in high level competitions, there is often a television match official (TMO; popularly called the "video referee"), to assist with certain decisions, linked up to the referee by radio. The referees have a system of hand signals to indicate their decisions.

Common offences include tackling above the shoulders, collapsing a scrum, ruck or maul, not releasing the ball when on the ground, or being off-side. The non-offending team has a number of options when awarded a penalty: a "tap" kick, when the ball is kicked a very short distance from hand, allowing the kicker to regather the ball and run with it; a punt, when the ball is kicked a long distance from hand, for field position; a place-kick, when the kicker will attempt to score a goal; or a scrum. Players may be sent off (signalled by a red card) or temporarily suspended ("sin-binned") for ten minutes (yellow card) for foul play or repeated infringements, and may not be replaced.

Occasionally, infringements are not caught by the referee during the match and these may be "cited" by the citing commissioner
Citing commissioner
In rugby union, a citing commissioner is an independent official, appointed by the competition organizer, the union in which the match is taking place, or the International Rugby Board, who is responsible for citing players who commit foul play which is not detected by the match officials.Teams may...

 after the match and have punishments (usually suspension for a number of weeks) imposed on the infringing player.

Replacements and substitutions


During the match, players may be replaced (for injury) or substituted (for tactical reasons). A player who has been replaced may not rejoin play unless he was temporarily replaced to have bleeding controlled; a player who has been substituted may return temporarily, to replace a player who has a blood injury, or permanently, if he is replacing a front-row forward. In international matches, up to seven replacements are allowed; in domestic or cross-border tournaments, at the discretion of the responsible national union(s), the number may be increased to eight, of whom three must be sufficiently trained and experienced to provide cover for the three front row positions.

Equipment




The most basic items of equipment for a game of rugby union are the ball itself, a rugby shirt (also known as a "jersey"), rugby shorts
Rugby shorts
Rugby shorts are a type of shorts that are worn while playing rugby. They are designed to take the strains of the game and have traditionally been made from cotton.-IRB Regulations on shorts:...

, socks and boots. The rugby ball is oval in shape, (technically a prolate spheroid
Prolate spheroid
A prolate spheroid is a spheroid in which the polar axis is greater than the equatorial diameter. Prolate spheroids stand in contrast to oblate spheroids...

), and is made up of four panels. The ball was historically made of leather, but in the modern era most games use a ball made from a synthetic material. The IRB lays out specific dimensions for the ball, 280-300mm in length, 740-770mm in circumference of length and 580-620mm in circumference of width. Rugby boots have soles with studs to allow grip on the turf of the pitch. The studs may be either metal or plastic but must not have any sharp edges or ridges.

Protective equipment is optional and strictly regulated. The most common items are mouthguard
Mouthguard
A mouthguard is a protective device for the mouth that covers the teeth and gums to prevent and reduce injury to the teeth, arches, lips and gums...

s, which are worn by almost all players, and are compulsory in some rugby-playing nations. Other protective items that are permitted include a head gear
Scrum cap
The Scrum cap is a form of headgear used by rugby players to protect the ears in the scrum, which can otherwise suffer injuries leading to the condition commonly known as cauliflower ears....

; thin (not more than 10 mm thick), non-rigid shoulder pads, and shin guard
Shin guard
A shin guard or shin pad is a piece of equipment worn on the front of a player’s shin to protect them from injury. These are commonly used in sports including association football, baseball, ice hockey, field hockey, lacrosse, rugby, cricket, and other sports...

s; which are worn underneath socks. Bandages or tape can be worn to support or protect injuries; some players wear tape around the head to protect the ears in scrums and rucks. Female players may also wear chest pads. Although not worn for protection, some types of fingerless mitts are allowed to aid grip.

It is the responsibility of the match officials to check players' clothing and equipment before a game to ensure that it conforms to the laws of the game.

Governing bodies



The international governing body of rugby union (and associated games such as sevens) is the International Rugby Board (IRB). The IRB headquarters are in Dublin, Ireland. The IRB, founded in 1886, governs the sport worldwide and publishes the game's laws and rankings
IRB World Rankings
The IRB World Rankings is a ranking system for men's national teams in rugby union, managed by the International Rugby Board , the sport's governing body. The teams of the IRB's member nations are ranked based on their game results, with the most successful teams being ranked highest...

. As of November 2010 the IRB recorded 118 unions in its membership, either full members or associate member countries. According to the IRB, rugby union is played by men and women in over 100 countries. The IRB controls the Rugby World Cup
Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup is an international rugby union competition organised by the International Rugby Board and held every four years since 1987....

, the Women's Rugby World Cup
Women's Rugby World Cup
The Women's Rugby World Cup is the premier international competition in rugby union for women. The tournament is organised by the sport's governing body the International Rugby Board...

, Rugby World Cup Sevens
Rugby World Cup Sevens
The Rugby World Cup Sevens is the premier international Rugby sevens competition. The event is organised by the sport's governing body, the International Rugby Board , and is contested by the men's national sevens teams every four years. The inaugural tournament was held in 1993 in Scotland, the...

, IRB Sevens World Series
IRB Sevens World Series
The IRB Sevens World Series, known officially as the HSBC Sevens World Series as of the 2010-11 season, through sponsorship from banking group HSBC, and also sometimes called the World Sevens Series, is a series of international rugby union sevens tournaments organised for the first time in the...

, Junior World Championship
IRB Junior World Championship
The IRB Junior World Championship is an international rugby union competition. The event is organised by the sport's governing body, the International Rugby Board , and is contested by 12 men's junior national teams , with an under-20 age requirement. The inaugural tournament was held in June 2008,...

, Junior World Trophy
IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy
The IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy is a second tier international rugby union competition. The event is organised by the sport's governing body, the International Rugby Board , and is contested by 8 men's junior national teams, with an under-20 age requirement. The inaugural tournament was held in...

, Nations Cup and the Pacific Nations Cup. The IRB holds votes to decide where each of these events are be held, except in the case of the Sevens World Series for which the IRB contracts with several national unions to hold individual events.

Six regional associations, which are members of the IRB, form the next level of administration; these are:
  • Confederation of African Rugby
    Confederation of African Rugby
    The Confederation of African Rugby is governing body for rugby union within Africa. The Confederation currently has 37 member nations and is responsible for running various rugby tournaments within Africa, especially the Africa Cup, and CAR Super 16.-History:The Confederation was officially...

     (CAR)
  • Asian Rugby Football Union
    Asian Rugby Football Union
    The Asian Rugby Football Union ' is the governing body of rugby union in Asia under the authority of the International Rugby Board.Founded in 1968 by eight charter nations, the Union today has 27 member unions in countries across Asia, stretching from Kazakhstan to Guam.The aim of ARFU is: "to...

     (ARFU)
  • North American and Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA)
  • Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur – Association Européenne de Rugby
    FIRA - Association of European Rugby
    The FIRA - Association Européenne de Rugby is the administrative body for rugby union in Europe. It was formed in 1999 to promote, develop, organise and administer the game of rugby in Europe under the authority of the International Rugby Board .The predecessor to FIRA–AER was the Fédération...

     (FIRA-AER)
  • Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions
    Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions
    The Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions is the regional governing body for rugby in Oceania. It presently encompasses 12 full member unions and 2 associate territorial committees and 1 associated union. FORU overseas the Pacific Rugby Cup, the Pacific Nations Cup and the FORU Oceania Cup.-Full...

     (FORU)
  • Confederación Sudamericana de Rugby
    Confederación Sudamericana de Rugby
    The Confederación Sudamericana de Rugby is the governing body for rugby union within South America. It was created on the 14 of October of 1989 in Montevideo, for initiative of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.The Confederation currently has nine member nations and is responsible for...

     (South American Rugby Confederation) (CONSUR)


SANZAR
SANZAR
SANZAR is the body which operates Super Rugby and Tri Nations competitions in rugby union. It is a joint venture of the South African Rugby Union, the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Australian Rugby Union, formed in 1996.Created shortly after rugby's move to professionalism in 1995, SANZAR's two...

 (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby) is a joint venture of the South African Rugby Union
South African Rugby Union
The South African Rugby Union is the governing body for rugby union in South Africa and is affiliated to the International Rugby Board...

, the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Australian Rugby Union
Australian Rugby Union
The Australian Rugby Union is the governing body of rugby union in Australia. It was founded in 1949 and is a member of the International Rugby Board the sport's governing body. It consists of eight member unions, representing each state and territory...

 that operates Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri Nations before the entry of Argentina). Although the Argentine Rugby Union initially has no representation on the SANZAR board, it has been granted input into the organisation's issues, especially with regard to The Rugby Championship.

National unions oversee rugby union within individual countries and are affiliated to the IRB. The IRB Council has 26 seats. Each of the eight foundation unions – Scotland
Scottish Rugby Union
The Scottish Rugby Union is the governing body of rugby union in Scotland. It is the second oldest Rugby Union, having been founded in 1873, as the Scottish Football Union.-History:...

, Ireland, Wales
Welsh Rugby Union
The Welsh Rugby Union is the governing body of rugby union in Wales, recognised by the International Rugby Board.The union's patron is Queen Elizabeth II, and her grandson Prince William of Wales became the Vice Royal Patron of the Welsh Rugby Union as of February 2007.-History:The roots of the...

, England
Rugby Football Union
The Rugby Football Union was founded in 1871 as the governing body for the sport of rugby union, and performed as the international governing body prior to the formation of the International Rugby Board in 1886...

, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France – has two seats, and Argentina, , , and the six regional associations each have one seat.

Global reach



The earliest countries to adopt rugby union were England
Rugby union in England
Rugby union is one of the leading professional and recreational team sports in England. A popular myth is that Rugby was created in England in 1823, when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it during a football match at Rugby School. In 1871 the RFU was formed by 21 clubs and the...

, the country of inception, followed by the other three Home Nations, Scotland
Rugby union in Scotland
Rugby union is a popular team sport in Scotland. The national side today competes in the annual Six Nations Championship and the Rugby World Cup. The first ever international rugby match was played on March 27, 1871, at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh, when Scotland defeated England in front of 4,000...

, Ireland
Rugby union in Ireland
Rugby union is a popular team sport played in Ireland. The sport is organised on an all-Ireland basis with one team, governing body and league for both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland...

 and Wales
Rugby union in Wales
Rugby union is the national sport of Wales and is considered a large part of national culture. Rugby is thought to have reached Wales in the 1850s, with the national body, the Welsh Rugby Union being formed in 1881...

. The spread of rugby union as a global sport has its roots in the exporting of the game by British expatriates, military personnel and over-seas university students. A rugby club was formed in Sydney, Australia
Rugby union in Australia
Rugby union is the third most popular winter sport in Australia, with its history dating back to 1864.The principal competition in Australian rugby union is Super Rugby, which is a multi-regional competition across the southern hemisphere...

 in 1864; while the sport was said to have been introduced to New Zealand
Rugby union in New Zealand
Rugby union is the unofficial national sport of New Zealand. Rugby, as it is generally referred to by New Zealanders, is an integral part of New Zealand culture. The national team, the All Blacks, rank as the top international team in the world. The sport was known in New Zealand from 1870, and the...

 by Charles Munro in 1870, who played rugby while a student at Christ's College, Finchley. The first rugby club in France
Rugby union in France
Rugby union is the second most popular team sport in France, after association football, and is the dominant sport in most of the southern half of the country. It was first introduced in the early 1870s by British residents. Elite French clubs participate in the professional domestic club league,...

 was formed by British residents in Le Havre in 1872, while the next year Argentina
Rugby union in Argentina
Rugby union is a popular team sport played in Argentina. The first rugby match played in the country dates back to 1873, as the game was introduced by the British...

 recorded its first game: 'Banks' v 'City' in Buenos Aires. In North America a club formed in Montreal in 1868, Canada's
Rugby union in Canada
Rugby union is a minority team sport in Canada; it is relatively strong as a participation sport, particularly in several hotspots like British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, but does not attract the same level of spectator support...

 first club. The city of Montreal also played its part in the introduction of the sport in the United States
Rugby union in the United States
Rugby union in the United States is a growing national sport. It is played at the youth, high school, club, semi-professional, and international levels. The United States is a Tier 2 rugby nation, as defined by the International Rugby Board, which means that it is not currently competitive at the...

, when students of McGill University
McGill University
Mohammed Fathy is a public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The university bears the name of James McGill, a prominent Montreal merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, whose bequest formed the beginning of the university...

 played against a team from Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 in 1874. In 1875 rugby was introduced to South Africa
Rugby union in South Africa
Rugby union is a popular team sport played in South Africa. Along with cricket and football it is one of the most popular ball sports in South Africa...

 by British soldiers garrisoned in Cape Town.

Several island states have embraced the sport of rugby, many introduced by British service personnel, but later spread the game to neighbouring countries as they searched for international opponents. Rugby was first played in Fiji
Rugby union in Fiji
Rugby union is a popular team sport that is played in Fiji. It is considered to be the national sport of the country. The sport was introduced in the 1880s. Fiji is defined as a tier two rugby nation by the International Rugby Board . The national team has competed at the Rugby World Cup and made...

 circa 1884 by European and Fijian soldiers of the Native Constabulary at Ba
Ba (town)
Ba is a town in Fiji, 37 kilometres from Lautoka and 62 kilometres from Nadi, inland from the coast of Viti Levu, Fiji's largest island. Covering an area of 327 square kilometres, it had a population of 14,596 at the 1996 census. The town is built on the banks of the Ba River, after which it is...

 on Viti Levu island. Fiji then sent their first overseas team to Samoa
Rugby union in Samoa
Rugby union is the national sport of Samoa, and the national teams in both the standard 15-man game and its seven-man variant are consistently competitive against teams from vastly more populous nations.-Governing body:...

 in 1924, who in turn set up their own union in 1927. Other countries to have national rugby teams in Oceania include the Cook Islands
Rugby union in the Cook Islands
Rugby union in the Cook Islands is a popular sport. It is a tier three rugby playing nation. They began playing international rugby in 1971 and have yet to make the Rugby World Cup. They are currently rated 55th, with 2,258 registered players and 21 clubs....

, Niue
Rugby union in Niue
Rugby union in Niue is a popular sport. It is a tier three rugby union playing nation.-Governing body:The Niue Rugby Football Union is the governing body for rugby union in Niue...

, Papua New Guinea
Rugby union in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a tier three rugby union playing nation. They began playing international rugby union in 1966 and have yet to make the Rugby World Cup. Teams from Papua New Guinea have competed in the Commonwealth games....

 and the Solomon Islands
Rugby union in the Solomon Islands
Rugby union in the Solomon Islands is a popular sport. The national team have competed in various international competitions. They are currently ranked 76th by the IRB, with 3068 registered players and 24 clubs.-History:...

.

Although the exact date of arrival of rugby union in Trinidad and Tobago
Rugby union in Trinidad and Tobago
Rugby union in Trinidad and Tobago is a popular sport. There are currently 4,457 registered players, and 13 clubs. They are currently ranked 46th.-History:...

 is unknown, their first club Northern RFC was formed in 1923, a national team was playing by 1927 and due to a cancelled tour to British Guiana
British Guiana
British Guiana was the name of the British colony on the northern coast of South America, now the independent nation of Guyana.The area was originally settled by the Dutch at the start of the 17th century as the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice...

 in 1933, switched their venue to Barbados
Rugby union in Barbados
Rugby union in Barbados is a minor, but relatively successful sport. There are less than 1700 registered rugby players in the country and only five official IRB sanctioned teams. The governing body for rugby union in Barbados is the Barbados Rugby Football Union, and their headquarters is...

; introducing rugby to the island. Other Atlantic countries to play rugby union include Jamaica
Rugby union in Jamaica
Rugby union in Jamaica is a minor but growing sport. They are currently ranked 84th by the IRB, with 2090 registered players.-History:Rugby was first introduced into Jamaica by the British...

 and Bermuda
Rugby union in Bermuda
Rugby union in Bermuda is a popular sport. Because of the island's small population, less than 70,000, it has not produced a world class team, but nonetheless is a dominant force within Caribbean rugby, and arguably the third strongest rugby nation in North America after Canada and the...

.

The spread of rugby union in Europe has been sporadic. Historically, due to the lack of international games between the British and Irish home teams, who were more interested in facing the Southern Hemisphere giants of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the rest of Europe were forced to create a 'second tier' of international rugby matches. As a mainland country and during a period when they had been isolated by the British and Irish Unions, France became the only European team from the top tier to regularly play the other European countries; mainly Belgium
Rugby union in Belgium
Rugby union in Belgium is a growing sport. They are currently ranked twenty-fifth in the International Rugby Board's world rankings.-Governing body:...

, the Netherlands
Rugby union in the Netherlands
Rugby union in the Netherlands is a minor but growing sport.-Governing body:The Dutch Rugby Union was founded in 1932, and affiliated to the IRB in 1988....

, Germany
Rugby union in Germany
Rugby union in Germany is a minor sport. The German Rugby Federation had 108 member clubs and 11,656 members.-Governing body:The German Rugby Federation is the governing body for rugby union in Germany...

, Spain
Rugby union in Spain
Rugby union in Spain is a growing team sport. The national side has played at the 1999 Rugby World Cup and is considered one of the stronger European nations outside the Six Nations Championship. Spanish club rugby is divided into divisions....

, Romania
Rugby union in Romania
Rugby union is a fairly popular team sport played in Romania with a tradition of more than 90 years. Romania's men's national team was 18th in the IRB World Rankings as of July 2011. -Governing body:...

, Poland
Rugby union in Poland
Rugby union in Poland is a minor but growing sport.-Governing body:The Polish Rugby Union was founded in 1957, and joined the IRFB in 1988.The official supplier of equipment to the PRU is O'Brien sport....

, Italy
Rugby union in Italy
Rugby union was introduced to Italy in the early 1900s. The Super 10 competition is the main national club competition. The two professional teams in the country are active in Pro12 and also participate in the Heineken Cup. Four italian clubs from the national championship compete in the European...

 and Czechoslovakia
Rugby union in Czechoslovakia
Rugby union in Czechoslovakia was a moderately popular sport. It was most popular in Moravia , Prague and Bratislava-Governing body:Czechoslovakia was a founder member of FIRA in 1934, and joined the IRB in 1988....

. In 1934, instigated by the French Rugby Federation, FIRA (Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur) was formed to organise rugby union outside the authority of the IRB. The founding members were , , , , , , and . Other European rugby playing nations of note include Russia
Rugby union in Russia
Rugby union in Russia is a growing sport. Russia is ranked 19th worldwide by the International Rugby Board , having over one hundred clubs and close to 20,000 players nationally. Russia has a professional domestic competition.-Governing body:...

, whose first officially recorded match is marked by an encounter between Dynamo Moscow and the Moscow Institute of Physical Education in 1933. Rugby union in Portugal
Rugby union in Portugal
Rugby union is a growing popular sport in Portugal, though still a long distance from the national sport association football. The sport is essentially amateur, with some degree of semi-professionalisation in its top flight league and the national rugby union team...

 also took hold between the First and Second World Wars, with a Portuguese National XV set up in 1922 and an official championship started in 1927.

Although Argentina is the most well known rugby playing nation in South America, founding the Argentine Rugby Union in 1899, several other countries on the continent also have a long history. Rugby had been played in Brazil
Rugby union in Brazil
Rugby union is a minor but growing sport Brazil, with an increasing popularity at universities across the country.Rugby union is played regularly in 21 of Brazil's 26 states and in the Federal District. The sport is not widely played in schools, but is common in universities, more specifically the...

 from the end of the 19th century, but the game was played regularly only from 1926, when São Paulo beat Santos in an inter-city match. It took Uruguay
Rugby union in Uruguay
Rugby union is considered one of the most popular sports in Uruguay. The national team, commonly known as Los Teros, have been playing international rugby since the late 1940s and have made appearances in two world cups - once in 1999 and again in 2003.- Governing body :The Unión de Rugby del...

 several aborted attempts to adapt to rugby, led mainly by the efforts of the Montevideo Cricket Club
Montevideo Cricket Club
The Montevideo Cricket Club is a multisport club based in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay in South America. It was founded in the nineteenth century by English immigrants. Its predecessor was the Victoria Cricket Club which was founded in 1842...

; succeeding in 1951 with the formation of a national league and four clubs. Other South American countries to have set up a rugby union include Chile
Rugby union in Chile
Rugby union is a fairly popular sport in Chile.-Governing body:The Federación de Rugby de Chile was founded on 4 May 1953. Their statutes and regulations were officialized at 16 December 1963...

 (1948), and Paraguay
Rugby union in Paraguay
this is a reliable source| country = Paraguay| sport = rugby union| image =| imagesize = 300px| caption =| union = Paraguayan Rugby Union| nickname =...

 (1968).

Many Asian countries have a tradition of playing rugby going back to the time of the British Empire. India
Rugby union in India
Rugby union is currently a minor sport in India. However it is a fast growing sport as some Indian sporting clubs are beginning to embrace the game...

 began playing rugby in the early 1870s, the Calcutta Football Club forming in 1872. After the withdrawal of the British military from the area at the end of the decade, rugby in India faltered. India's lasting legacy to the sport was the presentation of the Calcutta Cup
Calcutta Cup
The Calcutta Cup is a rugby union trophy awarded to the winner of the annual Six Nations Championship match between England and Scotland. It is currently England's since the 2009 Six Nations Championship....

 to the Rugby Football Union; the world's oldest international rugby trophy which is played for annually between England and Scotland. Sri Lanka
Rugby union in Sri Lanka
Rugby union in Sri Lanka is mainly played at a semi-professional and recreational level. It is a popular team sport with a history dating back to 1879.-Governing Body:The Sri Lankan Rugby Football Union is the governing body in the country...

 claims to have founded their union in 1878, and although little official information from the period is available, the team won the All-India cup in Madras in 1920. Malaysia
Rugby union in Malaysia
Rugby union in Malaysia is a sport with a long history, and a significant participation. There are 41,050 registered players, and the country is currently ranked 57th...

 also suffers from poor record keeping. Historically the first recorded match in Malaysia was in 1892, but the first confirmation of rugby is the existence of the HMS Malaya Cup which, named after the ship HMS Malaya, was first presented in 1922 and is still awarded to the winners of the Malay sevens. Rugby union was introduced to Japan
Rugby union in Japan
Rugby union in Japan is a popular sport. Japan has the fourth largest population of rugby union players in the world and the sport has been played there for over a century...

 in 1899 by Ginnosuke Tanaka a student of Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Trinity Hall, Cambridge
Trinity Hall is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. It is the fifth-oldest college of the university, having been founded in 1350 by William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich.- Foundation :...

 and Edward Bramwell Clarke
Edward Bramwell Clarke
Edward Bramwell Clarke was an educator in Meiji period Japan, who is credited with introducing the sport of rugby to Japan.-Biography:...

, who studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
Corpus Christi College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. It is notable as the only college founded by Cambridge townspeople: it was established in 1352 by the Guilds of Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin Mary...

. The Japan RFU was founded in 1926 and its place in rugby history was cemented with the news that Japan will host the 2019 World Cup
2019 Rugby World Cup
The 2019 Rugby World Cup is scheduled to be the 9th edition of the Rugby World Cup. At a special IRB meeting held in Dublin on 28 July 2009, Japan was announced as the host for the competition. This will be the first time this tournament to be held in Asia. Hong Kong and Singapore are expected to...

. It will be the first country outside the Commonwealth, Ireland and France to host the event, and is viewed by the IRB as an opportunity for rugby union to extend its reach, particularly in Asia. Other Asian playing countries of note include Singapore
Rugby union in Singapore
Rugby union in Singapore is a significant sport, albeit one very much linked to the complicated history of the country. Singapore is currently ranked 52nd, 9,400 registered players, and has thirteen formally organised clubs.-History:...

, South Korea
Rugby union in South Korea
Rugby union in South Korea is a minor but growing sport.The game is exclusively played in the southern part of the country: North Korea has little or no rugby union presence.-History:It is unknown when rugby was first played in Korea...

 and China
Rugby union in China
Rugby union in China is a growing sport. However, it is still not overly popular. China became affiliated to the International Rugby Board in 1997 and as of September 3rd, 2011, is currently ranked 61st in the world...

, while the former British colony of Hong Kong
Rugby union in Hong Kong
Rugby union in Hong Kong is long established, partly as a result of its being a British colony. In contrast to the People's Republic of China, it has had a continuous existence dating back over a hundred years, and is most notable for its sevens tournaments....

 is notable within rugby for its development of the rugby sevens game, especially the Hong Kong Sevens
Hong Kong Sevens
The Hong Kong Sevens is considered the premier tournament on the IRB Sevens World Series in rugby sevens—a variant of rugby union....

 tournament which was founded in 1976.

Rugby in the Middle East and the Gulf States has its history in the 1950s, with clubs formed by British and French Services stationed in the region after the Second World War. When these servicemen left, the clubs and teams were kept alive by young professionals, mostly Europeans, working in these countries. The official union of Oman was formed in 1971, with His Majesty Qaboos bin Said al Said as Patron. Bahrain
Rugby union in Bahrain
Rugby union in Bahrain is a minor but growing sport.-Governing body:The Bahrain Rugby Football Union is the national governing body, under the Arabian Gulf RFU. By the end of 2010, the AGRFU will be broken up, with new unions to be established in each member country, as announced in January 2009 by...

 founded its union a year later, while in 1975 the Dubai Sevens
Dubai Sevens
The Dubai Sevens is an annual rugby union sevens tournament held in Dubai, UAE. Through the 2007 edition, it was held at the Dubai Exiles Rugby Ground, but in 2008 it moved to The Sevens, a new stadium built to host the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens. The 2009 competition took place between 3-5...

, the Gulf's leading rugby tournament, was created by the Dubai Exiles Rugby Club. Rugby remains a minority sport in the region with Israel
Rugby union in Israel
Rugby union is a growing sport in Israel, with a history going back over seventy years and is most popular amongst people of South African origin.-Governing body:The Israel Rugby Union was founded in 1971, and joined the IRB in 1988...

, as of 2011, being the only member union from the Middle East to be included in the IRB World Rankings.

Rugby union in Africa was spread in the late 19th and early 20th century mainly by settlers and colonials who often adopted a 'whites-only' policy to playing the game. This resulted in rugby being viewed as a bourgeois sport by the indigenous people with limited appeal. The earliest countries to see the playing of competitive rugby include South Africa, and neighbouring Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe), which formed the Rhodesia Rugby Football Union in 1895. With the collapse of colonial rule, the popularity of rugby waned, but in more recent times the sport has been embraced by several African nations. In the early 21st century Madagascar
Rugby union in Madagascar
Rugby union in Madagascar is a popular team sport. Madagascar is ranked 43rd worldwide by the International Rugby Board , and boasts over 22,540 registered players and more than 410 rugby clubs...

 has experienced crowds of 40,000 at national matches, while Namibia, whose history of rugby can be traced back to 1915, have qualified for the final stages of the World Cup four times since 1999. Other African nations to be represented in the IRB World Rankings as Member Unions include Côte d'Ivoire
Rugby union in Côte d'Ivoire
Rugby union in Côte d'Ivoire, also known as "the Ivory Coast", is essentially amateur, with some degree of semi-professionalization in its top flight league and the national rugby union team....

, Kenya
Rugby union in Kenya
Rugby union is a popular sport in Kenya, in particular due to the success of the Kenyan Sevens Team in the rugby sevens format, and tournaments such as the Safari Sevens, which has been growing yearly, and now includes numerous international teams....

, Uganda
Rugby union in Uganda
Rugby union has been played in Uganda since colonial times when it was introduced by the British.-Idi Amin and rugby:A notable fan of all Ugandan sports, the dictator Idi Amin had been very athletic in his time in the army. At 193 cm tall, he was the Ugandan light heavyweight boxing champion...

 and Zambia
Rugby union in Zambia
Rugby union in Zambia is a minor but growing sport. They are currently ranked 73rd by the IRB and have 3,650 registered plays and 3 formally organised clubs...

. South Africa and Kenya are among the 12 "core teams" that participate in every event of the IRB Sevens World Series.

At least six countries have adopted rugby union as their de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

 national sport
National sport
A national sport or national pastime is a sport or game that is considered to be an intrinsic part of the culture of a nation. Some sports are de facto national sports, as baseball is in the U.S., while others are de jure as lacrosse and ice hockey are in Canada.-De jure national sports:-De facto...

; they are Fiji, Georgia
Rugby union in Georgia
Rugby union is a popular team sport played in Georgia. Rugby union is considered the most popular sport in Georgia, after football.- Governing body :The governing body for rugby union in Georgia is the Georgia Rugby Union...

, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga
Rugby union in Tonga
Rugby union is the national sport of Tonga. Tonga are considered to be a tier 2 rugby nation by the International Rugby Board.Tonga has four main rugby playing islands, Vava'u which produced players like Epi Taione, Ha'apai which produced players like Jonah Lomu, Eua which produced the Vunipola...

 and Wales.

Women's rugby union




Records of women's rugby football go back to the late 19th century, with the first documented source being Emily Valentine's writings, stating that she set up a rugby team in Portora Royal School
Portora Royal School
Portora Royal School for boys, and some 6th form girls, located in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, is one of a number of 'free schools' founded by Royal Charter in 1608, by James I...

 in Enniskillen, Ireland in 1887. Although there are reports of early women's matches in New Zealand and France, one of the first notable games to prove primary evidence was the 1917 war-time encounter between Cardiff Ladies and Newport Ladies; a photo of which shows the Cardiff team before the match at the Cardiff Arms Park
Cardiff Arms Park
Cardiff Arms Park , also known as The Arms Park, is primarily known as a rugby union stadium, but it also has a bowling green, and is situated in the centre of Cardiff, Wales. The Arms Park was host to the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1958, and hosted four games in the 1991 Rugby World...

. In the past 30 years the game has grown in popularity among female athletes, and, according to the IRB, is now played in over 100 countries.

The English based Women's Rugby Football Union (WRFU), responsible for women's rugby in England, Scotland Ireland and Wales, was founded in 1983, and is the oldest formally organised national governing body for women's rugby. This was replaced in 1994 by the Rugby Football Union for Women
Rugby Football Union for Women
The Rugby Football Union for Women is the governing body for women's rugby union in England. Its headquarters are at Twickenham Stadium, London.-History:Women's rugby union was first played seriously in Great Britain in the late 1970’s...

 (RFUW) in England with each of the other Home Nations governing their own countries. The premier international competition in rugby union for women is the Women's Rugby World Cup
Women's Rugby World Cup
The Women's Rugby World Cup is the premier international competition in rugby union for women. The tournament is organised by the sport's governing body the International Rugby Board...

, first held in 1991. Since 1994 it has been held every four years.

Major international competitions



The most important tournament in rugby union is the Rugby World Cup
Rugby World Cup
The Rugby World Cup is an international rugby union competition organised by the International Rugby Board and held every four years since 1987....

, a men's tournament that takes place every four years among the national rugby union teams. New Zealand is the current holder, winning the 2011 tournament
2011 Rugby World Cup
The 2011 Rugby World Cup was the seventh Rugby World Cup, a quadrennial international rugby union competition inaugurated in 1987. The International Rugby Board selected New Zealand as the host country in preference to Japan and South Africa at a meeting in Dublin on 17 November 2005...

 held in New Zealand, beating France 8-7 in the final. No World Cup winner has yet retained the trophy. England were the first team from the Northern Hemisphere to win, the previous champions being New Zealand (1987), Australia (1991 and 1999), South Africa (1995 and 2007). Major international competitions are the Six Nations Championship
Six Nations Championship
The Six Nations Championship is an annual international rugby union competition involving six European sides: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales....

 and the Tri Nations Series, held in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres respectively.

The Six Nations is an annual competition involving the European teams , , , , and . Each country plays the other five once. After the initial internationals between England and Scotland, Ireland and Wales began competing in the 1880s, forming the Home International Championships. France joined the tournament in the 1900s and in 1910 the term Five Nations first appeared. However, the Home Nations
Home Nations
Home Nations is a collective term with one of two meanings depending on the context. Politically, it means the nations of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom...

 (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) excluded France in 1931 amid a run of poor results, allegations of professionalism and concerns over on-field violence. France then rejoined in 1939–1940, though World War II halted proceedings for a further eight years. France has played in all the tournaments since WWII, the first of which was played in 1947. In 2000, Italy became the sixth nation in the contest and Rome's Stadio Flaminio
Stadio Flaminio
The Stadio Flaminio is a stadium in Rome. It lies along the Via Flaminia, three kilometres northwest of the city centre, 300 metres away from the Parco di Villa Glori....

, where their games are played, is the smallest venue in the tournament. The reigning Six Nations champions are England, who won four of their games but lost 24–8 to Ireland, and therefore failing to get the grand slam.

The Rugby Championship is the new name of the Southern Hemisphere's annual international series for that region's top national teams. From its inception in 1996 through 2011, it was known as the Tri Nations, as it featured the hemisphere's traditional powers of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. These teams have dominated world rankings in recent years, and many considered the Tri Nations to be the toughest competition in international rugby. The Tri Nations was initially played on a home and away basis with the three nations playing each other twice. In 2006 a new system was introduced where each nation plays the others three times, though in 2007 and 2011 the teams played each other only twice, as both were World Cup years. Since Argentina's strong performances in the 2007 World Cup, a number of commentators believed they should join the Tri-Nations, which came closer to reality after the 2009 Tri Nations tournament, when SANZAR
SANZAR
SANZAR is the body which operates Super Rugby and Tri Nations competitions in rugby union. It is a joint venture of the South African Rugby Union, the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Australian Rugby Union, formed in 1996.Created shortly after rugby's move to professionalism in 1995, SANZAR's two...

 (South Africa, New Zealand and Australian Rugby) extended an official invitation to the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) to join an expanded Four Nations tournament in 2012. The competition has been officially rechristened as The Rugby Championship beginning with the 2012 edition. The competition will revert to the Tri Nations' original home-and-away format, but now involving four teams.

Rugby tours


During the early history of rugby union, a time before commercial air travel, teams from different continents rarely met. The first two notable tours both took place in 1888, the British Isles to New Zealand and Australia which was followed by a New Zealand team touring Europe. Traditionally the most prestigious tours were the Southern Hemisphere countries of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa making a tour of a Northern Hemisphere, and the return tours made by a joint British and Irish team. Tours would last for months, due to long traveling times and the number of games undertaken; the 1888 New Zealand team began their tour in Hawkes Bay in June and did not complete their schedule until August 1889, having played 107 rugby matches. Touring international sides would play Test matches against international opponents, including national, club and county sides in the case of Northern Hemisphere rugby, or provincial/state sides in the case of Southern Hemisphere rugby.

Rugby within international tournaments



Rugby union was played at the Olympic Games in 1900
Rugby union at the 1900 Summer Olympics
Rugby union was played at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris. Matches were held on 14 October and 28 October. 47 athletes from three nations competed....

, 1908
Rugby union at the 1908 Summer Olympics
Rugby union at the 1908 Summer Olympics. The event was summarised under the "Football" heading along with association football. The host Great Britain was represented by Cornwall, the 1908 county champion...

, 1920
Rugby union at the 1920 Summer Olympics
Rugby union was played at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. Two nations entered the rugby event - France and the United States. The French team were very much thought to be assured of the gold medal and came in as raging favourites in the event. However, the United States team caused a massive...

 and 1924
Rugby union at the 1924 Summer Olympics
Rugby union was played at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. Three teams entered – France, Romania and the United States. The United States was returning to defend their gold medal after they defeated the French at the 1920 Summer Olympics. Each country played two games...

. As per Olympic rules, the nations of Scotland, Wales and England were not allowed to play separately as they are not sovereign states. In 1900, France won the gold, beating Great Britain 27 points to 8 and defeating Germany 27 points to 17. In 1908, Australasia defeated Great Britain, claiming the gold medal, the score being 32 points to three. In 1920, the United States, fielding a team with many players new to the sport of rugby, upset France in a shock win, eight points to zero. In 1924, the United States again defeated France 17 to 3, becoming the only team to win gold twice in the sport. In 2009 the International Olympic Committee
International Olympic Committee
The International Olympic Committee is an international corporation based in Lausanne, Switzerland, created by Pierre de Coubertin on 23 June 1894 with Demetrios Vikelas as its first president...

 voted with a majority of 81 to 8 that rugby union be reinstated as an Olympic sport in at least the 2016
2016 Summer Olympics
The 2016 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, are a major international multi-sport event to be celebrated in the tradition of the Olympic Games, as governed by the International Olympic Committee...

 and 2020
2020 Summer Olympics
The 2020 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXII Olympiad, will be a major international sports and cultural festival, celebrated in the tradition of the Olympic Games....

 games, but in the sevens, 4-day tournament format. This is something the rugby world has aspired to for a long time and Bernard Lapasset
Bernard Lapasset
Bernard Lapasset MNZM is a French rugby administrator who is currently Chairman of the International Rugby Board . He previously served as President of the French Federation of Rugby Union from 1991 to May 2008, when Pierre Camou, then Vice-President took over...

, president of the International Rugby Board, said the Olympic gold medal would be considered to be "the pinnacle of our sport" (Rugby Sevens).

Rugby sevens has been played at the Commonwealth Games since the 1998 Games
1998 Commonwealth Games
The 1998 XVI Commonwealth Games were held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 11 September to 21 September 1998 making it the first Asian country to act as host and the last Commonwealth Games for the 20th century. A record 70 nations supplied 3638 athletes...

 in Kuala Lumpur. The present gold medal holders are New Zealand
New Zealand national rugby union team (sevens)
The New Zealand national rugby union sevens team is the New Zealand representative team in rugby union sevens and competes in the IRB Sevens World Series, Rugby World Cup Sevens and the Commonwealth Games.-IRB Sevens:...

 who have won the competition on four successive occasions. Rugby union has also been an Asian Games
Asian Games
The Asian Games, officially known as Asiad, is a multi-sport event held every four years among athletes from all over Asia. The Games were regulated by the Asian Games Federation from the first Games in New Delhi, India, until the 1978 Games. Since the 1982 Games they have been organised by the...

 event since the 1998 games
1998 Asian Games
The 13th Asian Games were held from December 6 to December 20, 1998 in Bangkok, Thailand. This was the first time that Thailand bid for the event after it shouldered the two postponed hosting rights in 1970 and 1978.-Emblem:...

 in Bangkok, Thailand. In the 1998 and 2002 editions of the games, both the usual fifteen-a-side variety and rugby sevens were played, but from 2006 onwards, only rugby sevens was retained. In 2010, the women's rugby sevens event was introduced. The event is likely to remain a permanent fixture of the Asian Games due to elevation of rugby sevens as an Olympic sport from the 2016 Olympics onwards. The present gold medal holders in the sevens tournament, held in 2010
2010 Asian Games
The 2010 Asian Games, also known as the XVI Asiad, was a multi-sport event celebrated in Guangzhou, China from November 12 to November 27, 2010. Guangzhou was the second Chinese city to host the Games, after Beijing in 1990...

, are Japan
Japan national rugby union team (sevens)
The Japan national rugby union team represent Japan in international rugby sevens. The team compete in competitions such as the World Sevens Series and the Rugby World Cup Sevens.-Coach:*Wataru Murata - head coach from February 28, 2008...

 in the male event and Kazakhstan in the women's.

Women's international rugby



Women's international rugby union began in 1982, with a match between France
France women's national rugby union team
The France women's national rugby union team are a national sporting side of France, representing them at rugby union. The side first played in 1982.-History:...

 and Netherlands
Netherlands women's national rugby union team
The Netherlands women's national rugby union team are a national sporting side of Netherlands, representing them at rugby union. The side first played in 1982.-Results summary:-Results:...

 played in Utrecht
Utrecht (city)
Utrecht city and municipality is the capital and most populous city of the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is located in the eastern corner of the Randstad conurbation, and is the fourth largest city of the Netherlands with a population of 312,634 on 1 Jan 2011.Utrecht's ancient city centre features...

. As of 2009 over six hundred women's internationals have been played by over forty different nations.

The first Women's Rugby World Cup
Women's Rugby World Cup
The Women's Rugby World Cup is the premier international competition in rugby union for women. The tournament is organised by the sport's governing body the International Rugby Board...

 was held in Wales in 1991
1991 Women's Rugby World Cup
The 1991 Women's Rugby World Cup was the first Women's Rugby World Cup. The tournament was not approved by the International Rugby Board , yet it still went ahead despite the disapproval of the sports governing body—France only confirmed their participation minutes before the draw was made on...

, and was won by the United States
United States women's national rugby union team
The United States women's national rugby union team represents the United States in women's rugby union. Officially formed in 1987, the Women's National Team has been an international powerhouse since its inception. The Eagles won the first official Women's Rugby World Cup in 1991, and finished...

. The second tournament took place in 1994
1994 Women's Rugby World Cup
The 1994 Women's Rugby World Cup was the second world cup for women. It was originally scheduled to be held in the Amsterdam, Netherlands but was cancelled only weeks before...

, and since that date the competition has been held every four years. The New Zealand Women's team have won the last four World Cups (1998
1998 Women's Rugby World Cup
The 1998 Women's Rugby World Cup was the first world cup fully sanctioned by the International Rugby Board and the third world cup in history. The tournament took place in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands and was the first women's world cup held outside of the United Kingdom.The tournament saw a...

, 2002
2002 Women's Rugby World Cup
The 2002 Women's Rugby World Cup was the second World Cup fully sanctioned by the sports governing body the International Rugby Board . The tournament was held in Barcelona, Spain...

, 2006
2006 Women's Rugby World Cup
The 2006 Women's Rugby World Cup took place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The tournament began on 31 August and ended on 17 September 2006. The 2006 tournament was the third World Cup approved by the IRB, the previous two being held 2002 in Spain and in the Netherlands, in 1998...

, 2010
2010 Women's Rugby World Cup
The 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup was the sixth edition of the Women's Rugby World Cup and was being held in England. The International Rugby Board Executive Committee selected the host union following a recommendation from the Rugby World Cup Limited board after considering bids from the Rugby...

).

As well as the Women's Rugby World Cup there are also other regular tournaments, including a Six Nations
Women's Six Nations Championship
The Women's Six Nations Championship is an international rugby union competition contested between six European women's national teams. The competition began as a "Home International Championship" for the four home nations in 1996....

, run in parallel to the men's competition. The Women's Six Nations, first played in 1996 has been dominated by England, who have won the tournament on 12 occasions, including a run of six consecutive wins from 2006 to 2011.

Variants



The game of rugby union has spawned several variants of the full-contact, 15-a-side code. The two more common differences applied to the variants of the sport lie in either fewer players or reduced player contact. Of the variants, the oldest is Rugby sevens
Rugby sevens
Rugby sevens, also known as seven-a-side or VIIs, is a variant of rugby union in which teams are made up of seven players, instead of the usual 15, with shorter matches. Rugby sevens is administered by the International Rugby Board , the body responsible for rugby union worldwide...

 (7's, or VIIs), a fast-paced variant which originated in Melrose
Melrose, Scotland
Melrose is a small town and civil parish in the Scottish Borders, historically in Roxburghshire. It is in the Eildon committee area.-Etymology:...

, Scotland in 1883. In rugby sevens, there are only seven players per side, and each half is normally seven minutes. Major tournaments include the Hong Kong Sevens
Hong Kong Sevens
The Hong Kong Sevens is considered the premier tournament on the IRB Sevens World Series in rugby sevens—a variant of rugby union....

 and Dubai Sevens
Dubai Sevens
The Dubai Sevens is an annual rugby union sevens tournament held in Dubai, UAE. Through the 2007 edition, it was held at the Dubai Exiles Rugby Ground, but in 2008 it moved to The Sevens, a new stadium built to host the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens. The 2009 competition took place between 3-5...

, both held in areas not normally associated with the highest levels of the 15-a-side game. A more recent variant of the sport is Rugby tens
Rugby tens
Rugby tens, also known as ten-a-side and Xs, is a variant of rugby union in which teams are made up of ten players, typically five forwards and five backs. Matches are much shorter, often of two ten-minute halves...

 (10's or Xs), a Malaysian variant with ten players per side.

Due to the physical nature of playing rugby, several variants have been created to introduce the sport to children with a reduced level of physical contact. Of these versions, Touch rugby
Touch rugby
Touch rugby, Refers to games derived from rugby football in which players do not tackle in the traditional, highly physical way, but instead touch their opponents using their hands on any part of the body, clothing, or the ball....

, in which "tackles" are made by simply touching the ball carrier with two hands, is popular as a mixed sex version of the sport played by both children and adults. Tag Rugby
Tag Rugby
Tag Rugby, also known as rippa rugby, flag rugby league or flag rugby, is a non-contact team game in which each player wears a belt that has two velcro tags attached to it, or shorts with velcro patches. The mode of play is based on rugby league with many similarities to touch rugby...

, is a version in which the participants wear a belt with two hook-and-loop fastener tags, the removal of either counting as a 'tackle'. Tag Rugby also varies in the fact that kicking the ball is not allowed. Mini rugby
Mini rugby
Mini rugby also known as New Image Rugby is a form of rugby union designed to introduce the sport to children. It uses a smaller ball and pitch than standard rugby, and has nine players a side....

 is another variant of rugby union aimed at fostering the sport in children. It is played with only nine players and on a smaller pitch. Similar to Tag Rugby, American Flag Rugby
American Flag Rugby
American flag rugby is a mixed-gender, non-contact imitation of rugby union designed for American children entering grades K–9. The organization itself exists to provide free start up kits and support to any community looking to add a youth rugby program to their community...

, (AFR), is a mixed gender, non-contact imitation of rugby union designed for American children entering grades K-9. Both American Flag Rugby and Mini Rugby differ to Tag Rugby in that they introduce more advanced elements of rugby union as the participants age.

Other less formal variants include beach rugby
Beach Rugby
Beach rugby is a sport that can be based on either of the rugby football codes, league or union. There is no centralized regulation of the sport as in beach soccer or beach volleyball, but leagues are common across Europe, and the sport is particularly popular in Italy...

 and snow rugby
Snow rugby
Snow rugby refers to forms of rugby union, which are especially adapted to be played in winter conditions, particularly deep snow. It is played in the Argentinian Ski Resort of Las Leñas, Canada, the Kashmir region in India, Latvia and northern USA, amongst other places.-History:Rugby union is...

.

Influence on other sports


Rugby union football, and its immediate ancestor rugby football, has had a strong influence on several other sports. The Gridiron codes
Gridiron football
Gridiron football , sometimes known as North American football, is an umbrella term for related codes of football primarily played in the United States and Canada. The predominant forms of gridiron football are American football and Canadian football...

, American football
American football
American football is a sport played between two teams of eleven with the objective of scoring points by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone. Known in the United States simply as football, it may also be referred to informally as gridiron football. The ball can be advanced by...

 and Canadian football
Canadian football
Canadian football is a form of gridiron football played exclusively in Canada in which two teams of 12 players each compete for territorial control of a field of play long and wide attempting to advance a pointed prolate spheroid ball into the opposing team's scoring area...

, are derived from early forms of rugby. Confusingly, in Canada, Canadian football
Canadian football
Canadian football is a form of gridiron football played exclusively in Canada in which two teams of 12 players each compete for territorial control of a field of play long and wide attempting to advance a pointed prolate spheroid ball into the opposing team's scoring area...

 has also frequently been referred to as "rugby football
Rugby football
Rugby football is a style of football named after Rugby School in the United Kingdom. It is seen most prominently in two current sports, rugby league and rugby union.-History:...

", and a number of national and provincial bodies were called "Rugby Football Unions" or "Rugby Unions", such as the Ontario
Ontario Rugby Football Union
The Ontario Rugby Football Union or ORFU was an early amateur Canadian football league with teams in the Canadian province of Ontario. The ORFU was founded in 1883 and in 1903 became the first major competition to adopt the Burnside Rules, from which the modern Canadian football code would...

 and Quebec
Quebec Rugby Football Union
The Quebec Rugby Football Union was a football league consisting of teams from Quebec and formed in 1883. Eastern Ontario teams like Ottawa City and Ottawa College joined in 1894.- League Formation and Play :...

 Rugby Football Unions. For example, in the Encyclopedia Canadiana, the entry Rugby Football begins by referring to "the Canadian development of rugby union or "English rugger" introduced into Canada in the third quarter of the nineteenth century", but later states that "the Canadian game is a radical departure from rugby union".

Australian rules football
Australian rules football
Australian rules football, officially known as Australian football, also called football, Aussie rules or footy is a sport played between two teams of 22 players on either...

 has been influenced by a large number of sports, including Gaelic football
Gaelic football
Gaelic football , commonly referred to as "football" or "Gaelic", or "Gah" is a form of football played mainly in Ireland...

, rugby football and cricket
Cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

. Many authors believe that the primary influence was rugby football
Rugby football
Rugby football is a style of football named after Rugby School in the United Kingdom. It is seen most prominently in two current sports, rugby league and rugby union.-History:...

 and other other games originating in English public schools
English public school football games
During the early modern era students, former students and teachers at English public schools developed and wrote down the first codes of football, most notably the Eton College...

. Tom Wills
Tom Wills
Thomas Wentworth "Tom" Wills was an Australian all-round sportsman, umpire, coach and administrator who is credited with being a catalyst towards the invention of Australian rules football....

, who is recognised as one of the pioneers of Australian Rules, also attended Rugby School.

James Naismith
James Naismith
The first game of "Basket Ball" was played in December 1891. In a handwritten report, Naismith described the circumstances of the inaugural match; in contrast to modern basketball, the players played nine versus nine, handled a soccer ball, not a basketball, and instead of shooting at two hoops,...

 took aspects of many sports including rugby to invent basketball
Basketball
Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or "shooting" a ball through the top of a basketball hoop while following a set of rules...

. The most obvious contribution is the jump ball
Jump ball
A jump ball is a method used to begin or resume play in basketball. It is similar to a face-off in ice hockey or ball-up in Australian rules football...

's similarity to the lineout as well as the underhand shooting style that dominated the early years of the sport. Naismith played many years of rugby at McGill University
McGill University
Mohammed Fathy is a public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The university bears the name of James McGill, a prominent Montreal merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, whose bequest formed the beginning of the university...

.

Swedish football
Swedish football (code)
Swedish football was a code of football devised and played in Sweden from the 1870s to the early 1890s, when the modern association football was introduced...

 was a code whose rules were a mix of the association football rules and the rugby football rules
Rugby football
Rugby football is a style of football named after Rugby School in the United Kingdom. It is seen most prominently in two current sports, rugby league and rugby union.-History:...

. Some played the game with a round ball, while others played with an oval ball. It is no longer played.

Rugby lends its name to wheelchair rugby
Wheelchair rugby
Wheelchair rugby, , is a team sport for athletes with a disability. It is currently practiced in over twenty countries around the world and is a Paralympic sport....

 (also known as "quad rugby" or "murderball"), but the sport is more strongly influenced by wheelchair basketball
Wheelchair basketball
Wheelchair basketball is basketball played by people in wheelchairs and is considered one of the major disabled sports practiced. The International Wheelchair Basketball Federation is the governing body for this sport. It is recognized by the International Paralympic Committee as the sole...

, ice hockey
Ice hockey
Ice hockey, often referred to as hockey, is a team sport played on ice, in which skaters use wooden or composite sticks to shoot a hard rubber puck into their opponent's net. The game is played between two teams of six players each. Five members of each team skate up and down the ice trying to take...

 and handball
Team handball
Handball is a team sport in which two teams of seven players each pass a ball to throw it into the goal of the other team...

 than rugby union.

Statistics and records


According to a 2011 report by the Centre for the International Business of Sport at Coventry University
Coventry University
Coventry University is a post-1992 university in Coventry, West Midlands, England. Under the terms of the Further and Higher Education Act of 1992, the institution's name was changed from Coventry Polytechnic to Coventry University...

, there are now over five million people playing rugby union or one of its variants organised by the IRB. This is an increase of 19 percent since the previous report in 2007. The report also claimed that since 2007 participation has grown by 33 percent in Africa, 22 percent in South America and 18 percent in Asia and North America.

Rugby union's premier event, the Rugby World Cup, has continued to grow since its inception in 1987. The first tournament, in which 16 teams competed for the title, was broadcast to 17 countries with an accumulated total of 230 million television viewers. Ticket sales during the pool stages and finals of the same tournament was less than a million. The 2007 World Cup
2007 Rugby World Cup
The 2007 Rugby World Cup was the sixth Rugby World Cup, a quadrennial international rugby union competition inaugurated in 1987. Twenty nations competed for the Webb Ellis Cup in the tournament, which was hosted by France from 7 September to 20 October. France won the hosting rights in 2003,...

 was contested by 94 countries with ticket sales of 3,850,000 over the pool and final stage. The accumulated television audience for the event, then broadcast to 200 countries, was 4.2 billion.

The most capped international player from the tier 1 nations is Australian halfback George Gregan
George Gregan
George Musarurwa Gregan AM is an Australian rugby union halfback who has made more appearances for his national team than any other player in the sport's history....

 with 139 caps. While the top scoring tier 1 international player is New Zealand's Dan Carter, who has amassed 1250 points during his career. In April 2010 Lithuania
Rugby union in Lithuania
Rugby union in Lithuania is a minor but growing sport.-Governing Body:The Lithuanian Union was founded in 1961, and joined the IRB in 1992, after Lithuanian independence. Although the union was formed in the sixties, it was not considered a proper national union until after the breakup of the...

 broke the record of consecutive international wins previously held by New Zealand and South Africa,which was 17 consecutive wins against tier 1 nations, with their 18th win in tier 2 in a match against Serbia
Rugby union in Serbia
Rugby union in Serbia is a minor but growing sport. They are currently ranked 59th by the IRB. -History:Rugby union was a moderately popular sport in Yugoslavia...

. The highest scoring international match between two recognised unions was Hong Kong's 164 - 13 victory over Singapore on 27 October 1994 While the largest winning margin of 152 points is held by two countries, Japan (a 155 - 3 win over Chinese Taipei) and Argentina (152 - 0 over Paraguay) both in 2002.

Rugby union in culture



The influence of rugby in culture can be assessed on the inspiration on artists and writers, as well as the impact of rugby players and administrators as role models and heroes to their countries' populace. Popular writers who have used rugby union within their books are numerous. Thomas Hughes 1857 novel Tom Brown's Schooldays
Tom Brown's Schooldays
Tom Brown's Schooldays is a novel by Thomas Hughes. The story is set at Rugby School, a public school for boys, in the 1830s; Hughes attended Rugby School from 1834 to 1842...

, set in Rugby School, includes a recount of a rugby football match, which was then portrayed in the 1940s film of the same name. James Joyce mentions Irish team Bective Rangers
Bective Rangers
Bective Rangers is a rugby union club in Dublin, Ireland founded in 1881.The Club is affiliated to the Leinster Branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union and play in Division 2 of the All Ireland League....

 in several of his works, including Ulysses (1922) and Finnegans Wake (1939), while his 1916 semi-autobiographical work A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a semi-autobiographical novel by James Joyce, first serialised in the magazine The Egoist from 1914 to 1915, and published first in book format in 1916 by B. W. Huebsch, New York. The first English edition was published by the Egoist Press in February 1917...

holds accounts of Ireland international James Magee
James Magee
James Mary Magee was an Irish cricketer and rugby union player. Magee was capped in both sports, playing cricket for Ireland and in 1896 he was part of the British Isles team that toured South Africa.-Cricket career:Magee was born in Dublin in 1872 and was educated at Clongowes Wood College in...

. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in his 1924 Sherlock Holmes tale The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire
The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire
"The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", one of the 56 Sherlock Holmes short-stories written by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 12 stories in the cycle collected as The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes.- Plot summary :...

, mentions that Dr Watson played rugby for Blackheath.

Rugby union was the subject of early sketches representing the sport, but was also explored by notable artists, especially by early 20th century French painters. French Post-Impressionist Henri Rousseau
Henri Rousseau
Henri Julien Félix Rousseau was a French Post-Impressionist painter in the Naïve or Primitive manner. He was also known as Le Douanier , a humorous description of his occupation as a toll collector...

's 1908 work Joueurs de football shows two pairs of rugby players competing. Other French artists to have represented the sport in their works include Albert Gleizes
Albert Gleizes
Albert Gleizes , was a French painter. Born Albert Léon Gleizes and raised in Paris, he was the son of a fabric designer who ran a large industrial design workshop...

' Les Joueurs de football (1912), Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay was a French artist who, with his wife Sonia Delaunay and others, cofounded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes. His later works were more abstract, reminiscent of Paul Klee...

's Football. L'Equipe de Cardiff (1916) and André Lhote
André Lhote
André Lhote was a French sculptor and painter of figure subjects, portraits, landscapes and still life. He was also very active and influential as a teacher and writer on art....

's Partie de Rugby (1917). The 1928 Gold Medal for Art
Art competitions at the 1928 Summer Olympics
Art competitions were held as part of the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Medals were awarded in five categories , for works inspired by sport-related themes....

 at the Antwerp Olympics was won by Luxembourg's Jean Jacoby
Jean Jacoby
Jean Lucien Nicolas Jacoby was a Luxembourg artist. He won Olympic gold medals in the Olympic art competitions of 1924 and 1928, making him the most successful Olympic artist ever....

 for his work Rugby.

In television and film rugby union has been used as the backdrop to several productions. Ealing Studios' 1949 comedy A Run for Your Money
A Run for Your Money
A Run for Your Money is a 1949 Ealing Studios comedy film starring Donald Houston and Meredith Edwards as two Welshmen visiting London for the first time...

and the 1979 television film from BBC Wales Grand Slam
Grand Slam (1978 film)
Grand Slam is a 1978 sports comedy film produced by BBC Wales. The film starred Oscar-winning actor Hugh Griffith, Windsor Davies, Dewi "Pws" Morris and Sion Probert...

both centre on the fans attending a match rather than the sport itself. Films that explore the sport in more detail include independent production Old Scores
Old Scores
Old Scores is a 1991 film jointly produced by New Zealand and Wales, based around the two countries' mutual national sport of rugby union. It is notable for the appearance of a large number of legendary Welsh and New Zealand international rugby players in supporting roles...

(1991) and Forever Strong
Forever Strong
Forever Strong is a sports film directed by Ryan Little and written by David Pliler and released on September 26, 2008. The film stars Sean Faris, Gary Cole, Neal McDonough, Sean Astin, Penn Badgley and Arielle Kebbel. The film is about a troubled rugby union player who must play against the team...

(2008). Invictus
Invictus (film)
Invictus is a 2009 biographical sports drama film directed by Clint Eastwood starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.The story is based on the John Carlin book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World...

(2009), based on John Carlin
John Carlin
John Carlin is a journalist and author, dealing with both sports and politics. His book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation about former South African president Nelson Mandela is the basis for the 2009 film Invictus.-Personal life:Carlin was born to a Scottish father...

's book Playing the Enemy, explores the events of the 1995 Rugby World Cup
1995 Rugby World Cup
The 1995 Rugby World Cup was the third Rugby World Cup. It was hosted and won by South Africa, and was the first Rugby World Cup in which every match was held in one country....

 and Nelson Mandela's attempt to use the sport to connect South Africa's people post-apartheid.

Many countries have erected statues depicting rugby union or rugby players. Some statues are found at rugby stadiums, such as pop-artist Gerald Laing
Gerald Laing
Gerald Ogilvie Laing was a British pop artist and sculptor. He lived in the Scottish Highlands.- Life :...

's 27 ft bronze at Twickenham
Twickenham Stadium
Twickenham Stadium is a stadium located in Twickenham, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It is the largest rugby union stadium in the United Kingdom and has recently been enlarged to seat 82,000...

 and the Millennium Stadium
Millennium Stadium
The Millennium Stadium is the national stadium of Wales, located in the capital, Cardiff. It is the home of the Wales national rugby union team and also frequently stages games of the Wales national football team, but is also host to many other large scale events, such as the Super Special Stage...

's life size work of rugby administrator Sir Tasker Watkins
Tasker Watkins
The Rt Hon Sir Tasker Watkins VC GBE PC was a Lord Justice of Appeal and deputy Lord Chief Justice...

. Rugby players to have been honoured with statues include Gareth Edwards
Gareth Edwards
Gareth Owen Edwards CBE is a former Welsh rugby union footballer who played scrum-half and has been described by the BBC as "arguably the greatest player ever to don a Welsh jersey"....

 in Cardiff and Danie Craven
Danie Craven
Daniël Hartman Craven , more famously known as Danie Craven or simply Doc Craven, is a former Western Province, Eastern Province, Northern Transvaal and Springbok rugby union player as well as arguably South Africa's best and best-known rugby administrator...

 in Stellenbosch.

See also



  • International Rugby Hall of Fame
    International Rugby Hall of Fame
    The International Rugby Hall of Fame is a hall of fame for rugby union. It was created in 1997 in New Zealand and is run as a charitable trust with an address at Chiswick in London. Most of the trustees are also inductees. IRHOF accepts new inductees every two years...

  • IRB Hall of Fame
    IRB Hall of Fame
    The IRB Hall of Fame is a hall of fame operated by the International Rugby Board that recognises special achievement and contribution to the sport of rugby union. The IRB Hall of Fame covers players, coaches, administrators, match officials, institutions and other individuals...

  • List of international rugby union teams
  • List of oldest rugby union competitions
  • List of rugby union terms
  • Experimental law variations
    Experimental law variations
    The experimental law variations were a proposed set of amendments to the laws of rugby union. They were propsed by the sport's governing body, the International Rugby Board , and trialled games at Stellenbosch University in 2006...


Electronic sources


External links