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The Birth of Rugby

The Birth of Rugby

Like for many of you, the 2015 rugby world cup has gripped me, even for someone who previously did not really have an interest in rugby I find myself keen on going to the pub to watch two teams battle it out in the midst of the Twickenham grounds. The last time I paid much attention to rugby was when Jonny Wilkinson pelted the ball between the H. This article will briefly look at the origins of rugby and how it came into such a major inspiring commonwealth sport that it is today. I am also writing an article on the origins and history of the Haka, the ancestral war dance from the Maori people of New Zealand and its replication from the All Blacks. Now is the knock out stages with the 2015 rugby world cup coming to end in a week or so, I thought it would be suitable to explore the origins of the sport which many nations such as New Zealand and Australia have adopted as a national sport.

The Birth

Statue of William Webb Ellis outside Rugby School: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/WWEstatue_700.jpg
Statue of William Webb Ellis outside Rugby School: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/WWEstatue_700.jpg

It’s no coincidence that many of the nations who have adopted rugby as a national sport are English speaking, many of them are actually commonwealth countries inspired by its origins during the British Empire. The sport was rumoured to have been born at… you guessed it… Rugby school, an English public school where the myth of he origins of rugby was born. Legend has it the origins of ”Rugby Football” came when a boy ”who with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it.” 

Origins of the Claim

The story actually originates from one single source written by Matthew Bloxham, a former pupil of Rugby school who wrote of the change to a handling game from a kicking game, therefore demonstrating the act of running with the ball in hand.

“A boy of the name Ellis – William Webb Ellis – a town boy and a foundationer, … whilst playing Bigside at football in that half-year [1823], caught the ball in his arms. This being so, according to the then rules, he ought to have retired back as far as he pleased, without parting with the ball, for the combatants on the opposite side could only advance to the spot where he had caught the ball, and were unable to rush forward till he had either punted it or had placed it for some one else to kick, for it was by means of these placed kicks that most of the goals were in those days kicked, but the moment the ball touched the ground the opposite side might rush on. Ellis, for the first time, disregarded this rule, and on catching the ball, instead of retiring backwards, rushed forwards with the ball in his hands towards the opposite goal, with what result as to the game I know not, neither do I know how this infringement of a well-known rule was followed up, or when it became, as it is now, a standing rule.”

 

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