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Rugby History

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H. Archie Richardson
Rugby developed through an infraction of the rules by a Rugby School boy, William Webb Ellis, during a soccer (or association football, as it is known outside the United States) match in 1823. The ball-carrying play by Ellis spread to a number of other English public schools, and in 1839 students at Cambridge University gave it a trial during an intramural game, which they called "Rugby's game." In 1848 the first code of the game was formulated and Rugby soon acquired wide recognition. By the 1860's two distinct types of football had developed--handling and nonhandling. In 1863 supporters of the nonhandling game formed the Football Association (association football or soccer). In 1871, 21 amateur clubs established the Rugby Football Union and drew up the original laws of the game.

Toward the end of the 19th century many Rugby players were taking pay for their efforts, although the practice was not generally accepted. The Northern Rugby Union, a professional organization, was formed in 1895 by a group of clubs that wanted to recompense their players for time taken from their jobs while fulfilling playing engagements. This organization was renamed the Rugby Football League in 1922.

The Rugby (amateur) code is followed throughout most countries in the world where Rugby is played. Introduced in the United States about 1875, Rugby was the precursor of American football. Rugby has had its longest popularity in the San Francisco Bay region. It has never become immensely popular in the United States.

H. Archie Richardson

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