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Rugby Sports | Rugby | Suntan Sports | Under the Sun

Situated in central England, in the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, is one of the oldest and well-respected boarding schools, the Rugby School. It is here that the unique sport of Rugby was born. Rugby could be compared to a cross between American football and soccer. Players need to possess the combination of strength, speed and strategy to move a ball into an opponent’s territory and score. It’s a dangerous, full-contact sport, yet players wear little or no protective gear.

Although not everyone agrees, majority concludes that William Webb Ellis, an English-Anglican clergyman once a pupil at the boarding school, is the alleged creator of what is now known as Rugby Football. A plaque placed in 1985, at Rugby School reads: “This stone commemorates the exploit of William Webb Ellis, 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 thus originating the distinctive feature of the rugby game.” A.D. 1823. Other schools and universities in the mid-19th century caught the fever and adopted the change. It was also at that time that the game was no longer just for schoolboys, but took its place as a regular sport among men. The English Rugby Union was formed in 1871 to standardize the game and a few years later the sport was introduced into the United States. In 1895, after a huge argument in England, the sport split into the two forms that exist today: Rugby League (13 players per team) and Rugby Union (15 players per team). The rules differ slightly, but the basic idea for both is the same. The field is very similar to an American Football field with two teams defending their goal. The ball that is used is larger than a football and a bit more rounded. Players may carry, kick, or pass the ball. When passing the ball, it can only be passed laterally or behind the player; never forward. Tackling is permitted, however blocking another player is forbidden. Play is also continuous and if the game is stopped due to injury that down time is added to the end of the game clock. A “scrum” is when the two teams’ opposing lines of forwards kick the ball thrown between them. Different points are scored for carrying the ball into the opponent's goal (a “try”), conversions (kicking the ball between the goal posts after a try), field goal kicks, and penalty kicks. A rugby match is two 40 minute halves, and can end in a tie. There seems to be a type of rugby at a level of competition that is right for almost anyone.


Rugby Union is governed by the International Rugby Board and headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. Since creation of the team game, rugby union has grown into a colossal worldwide sport! The top tiered teams dominating this division of rugby are: England, France, Ireland, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. Normally played in the winter, “Union” is considered to be the national sport in New Zealand, South Africa, Wales, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Madagascar. The IRB Rugby World Cup is the 3rd biggest sport event in the world, and this is only because of the flourishing school, university and club competitions in England and all around the globe. The version called Sevens has been selected for the 2016 Olympics and beyond. Rugby was last an Olympic sport in 1900, 1908, 1920, and 1924. The United States won the Gold Medal in 1920 and 1924.


This version of Rugby is played in over 50 countries and is overseen by the Rugby League International Federation in Sydney, Australia. It is the national sport of Papua New Guinea. Australia, New Zealand, France, Wales and England also have professional clubs. The United States is gearing up to start a pro league (National Rugby League USA) in 2010 or 2011. Right now the sport is big with the U.S., Samoa, Fiji, Ireland, Scotland, Germany and these countries compete on a semi-pro or amateur level.



Adrian Hadley, a well-known Wales rugby player (first union, then switched to league), stated in 1988, "League is much, much more physical than Union, and that's before anyone starts breaking the rules." Always played outside and sometimes played in the summer, League players should remember to protect their skin from over exposure to strong UV rays. Players in some locales don’t always have to worry about getting a suntan, though. Some coaches and players actually prefer it be wet and muddy when playing as they claim it hurts less to fall into soft mud rather than hard, dry ground! 


Rugby players wear team jerseys, shorts, socks and boots. Protective gear is optional and regulated by officials. Mouth guards are worn by nearly all players. They can also opt for protective head gear, shin guards and shoulder pads. Fingerless gloves are sometimes worn to help the player keep grip on the ball. Some participants have been known to wrap tape around their head and ears to keep them protected when in close quarters with the other team members! Spectators should bring umbrellas on sunny, bright days and get under cover once they have gotten their needed vitamin D.


Records of women's rugby go back over 100 years with the first reference of the game being played in New Zealand in 1891 and then France 10 years after that. In the past 30 years the game has grown in popularity among female athletes and is now played in 80+ countries. The English Rugby Football Union for Women (RFUW) was established in 1983, and is the oldest organized national governing body for the sport of women's rugby.

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