Every four years the Rugby World Cup comes around, making the lives of rugby fans little bit sweeter, not only because they have the chance to watch some quality international games, but mainly because it’s the only time it is talked about more than football.
If you want to learn more about the beastly game played by gentlemen, here are 10 facts you might not be aware about the sport.
- The game of rugby is said to be named after Rugby School where the game was first played. It’s said to have originated in 1823, when William Webb Ellis caught the ball while playing a game of football, and ran to the opponents goal with it.
- The first ever Rugby game took place between Scotland and England and Scotland won.
- The International Rugby Board (IRB) is the highest governing body in the Rugby Union and was formed back in 1886. There are 97 member unions in the IRB.
- The first ever rugby balls were made by Richard Lindon who fashioned it out of hand stitched leather casing and pigs’ bladders. Apparently, pigs’ bladders naturally take on an oval shape. As rubber inner tubes became more prevalent at the end of the 19th century, Rugby School requested that their balls remain asymmetric to distinguish them from footballs. Over time, the oval shape has become even more pronounced, making them easier to catch, hold and run with.
- The All Blacks, New Zealand’s Rugby team, are probably the most famous and successful rugby team in the world. Before every match they perform a Maori war dance, usually, only performed by tribes and cultural groups across their country.
- Despite ‘The All Blacks’ being widely considered to be the greatest Rugby team, USA’s team are still the reigning Olympic Rugby champs. This is because they were the last team to win in 1924 after which the sport was discontinued at an Olympic level.
- The concept of singing a national anthem before any sporting event originated at a rugby match. Everyone knows that the New Zealand All Blacks dance the haka before the start of a match. But on the 16th November 1905 in Cardiff, the Welsh responded to the traditional war-dance by breaking into song. They sang ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’, the country’s national anthem, in a stirring first. Nowadays, of course, it’s done at the beginning of most international sporting events, as well on receiving medals and prizes.
- Rugby influenced the invention of basketball. 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.
- South Africa is now one of the leading nations in this sport for many years. It was actually introduced to them by the British troops who were stationed in Cape Town.
- And the most interesting one, the whistle used for the opening match at every World Cup is the one used by Welsh referee Gil Evans for an England-New Zealand match in 1905.