The game of rugby is believed to have begun in 1823 after Rugby School pupil William Webb Ellis picked up the ball during a game of football and ran with it. Since then the game has taken many strange twist and turns, some of which you possibly haven’t heard of. Below are 7 facts about the game of rugby that you probably didn’t know;
1. Button Up
In the days of Rugby’s infancy, players would show up for games decked in white button down shirts, white trousers, and a bow tie! The ideal shirt would be made from thick cotton that would stand tough (and not rip) on the wrong end of a scrum. And the collar was crucial (one should always sport a collar when kicking the crap out of another person… it’s just dignified).
2. The United States Are Golden
The reigning Rugby Olympic champion is that famous (?) rugby-playing nation, the United States! The game of rugby has only has only been an Olympic sport four times and made its first and last Olympic Games appearances in Paris. The first time it was played was in 1900 during the Paris Olympics. It was played again in the London Olympics of 1908, next in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics and finally in the 1924 Paris Olympics. As well as being the current Olympic champion, the United States is also the most successful nation winning gold in both the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games. A seven-a-side version of Rugby will make an appearance in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
3. Whistle Whilst You Work
The same whistle is used to kick off the opening game of every Rugby World Cup tournament. It is the Gil Evans whistle and was first blown by Gil Evans, the Welsh referee overseeing a match between England and New Zealand in 1905. It was also used at the kick off of the final rugby match at the 1924 Paris Olympics.
4. Keep Trying
A try originally gave a team no points. When it was first introduced the only way to score was by kicking a goal. The try simply gave the team the right to do a place kick for points. Hence, it gave them a “try” for goal. Obviously, this has changed and now one can score a try, but the term hasn’t changed.
5. Basket Case
Basketball was actually created by a rugby coach who wanted some form of indoor sporting activity to keep his players conditioned when it was off-season! Basketball was invented by James Naismith as an indoor alternative to Rugby when the New England winters required an indoor game. Some of rugby’s characteristics such as quick switches between attack and defense, ball handling and committing defenders to attack space are all found in basketball.
6. It’s No Picnic
French rugby player Gaston Vareilles missed his international debut against Scotland in 1910 … all because of a sandwich. When the team train stopped at Lyon , Vareilles nipped to the buffet. But the queue was so long that by the time he returned to the platform, the train was disappearing into the distance. He was never picked for his country again.
7. Don’t Drop It
Cliff Morgan never tried to drop a goal in his entire senior career as a fly-half for Cardiff, Wales and the Lions. As a schoolboy, he had won a game with a last-minute drop goal. Instead of praising Cliff the school’s rugby master, whom Cliff respected very much, dropped him from the team for two matches for not playing rugby in the true spirit of the game. I’m sure the teacher was wrong, but Cliff Morgan never forgot the lesson!
Although JPR Williams only tried to drop a goal once in his international career and it was crucial to the Lions’ series win over the All Blacks in 1971! The occasion was the fourth and final Test when he dropped a goal from 40 metres. The game ended in a 14-14 draw. If the All Blacks had won the game, the Test series would have been shared 2-2. The draw meant the Lions won the series with 2 Test wins to the All Blacks 1 Test win.