History of the Game
In 1835, during a frustrating, losing game of soccer, a young player from the Rugby School for Boys in England, named William Webb Ellis picked up the game ball and ran towards his opponents goal. He was tackled before he got there. Thus was born “that game at Rugby” or the game of Rugby as we know it today.
The game spread rapidly worldwide and has been played continuously in the United States since the 1850s. Today, it’s the second largest team sport played in the world, capturing as many as 4.2 billion television viewers during the 2004 Rugby World Cup. And, did it with very minimal television coverage in the United States.
In the 1880s, Walter Camp took a rugby team and realigned the players to create the American game of football. With a new set of rules, football was played with a rugby ball until the early 1900s, when rule changes allowed the forward pass and required a more streamlined ball to throw.
Also in the 1890s, Dr. James Naismith created basketball to keep his school’s rugby team in shape during the cold winter months.
Rugby has a long, colorful history in this country and is still the only “pure sport” actively played today. With its deft ball handling and collision tackeling, it’s a great game to watch.
Currently, there are over 2,500 rugby clubs in the United States, with an estimated 125,000 active players, playing at all levels of the sport.