Rugby union, commonly known in most of the world simply as rugby, is a contact team sport which originated in England in the first half of the 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand. In its most common form, a game is between two teams of 15 players using an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field with H-shaped goalposts at each end.
Rugby union is a popular sport around the world, played by male and female players of all ages. In 2014, there were more than 6 million people playing worldwide, of whom 2.36 million were registered players. World Rugby, previously called the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) and the International Rugby Board (IRB), has been the governing body for rugby union since 1886, and currently has 101 countries as full members and 18 associate members.
In 1845, the first football laws were written by Rugby School pupils; other significant events in the early development of rugby include the Blackheath Club's decision to leave the Football Association in 1863 and the split between rugby union and rugby league in 1895. Historically an amateur sport, in 1995 restrictions on payments to players were removed, making the game openly professional at the highest level for the first time.
Rugby union spread from the Home Nations of Great Britain and Ireland and was absorbed by many of the countries associated with the British Empire. Early exponents of the sport included Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France. Countries that have adopted rugby union as their de facto national sport include Fiji, Georgia, Madagascar, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga.
International matches have taken place since 1871 when the first game took place between Scotland and England at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh. The Rugby World Cup, first held in 1987, takes place every four years. The Six Nations Championship in Europe and The Rugby Championship in the Southern Hemisphere are other major international competitions, held annually.
National club or provincial competitions include the Premiership in England, the Top 14 in France, the Mitre 10 Cup in New Zealand, the National Rugby Championship in Australia, and the Currie Cup in South Africa. Other transnational club competitions include the Pro14 in Europe and South Africa, the European Rugby Champions Cup solely in Europe, and Super Rugby, in the Southern Hemisphere and Japan.
South African Victor Matfield takes a line-out against New Zealand in 2006.
|Highest governing body||World Rugby|
|Nicknames||Rugby, Rugger, Rugby XV, Union|
|First played||19th century|
|Registered players||3,560,000[nb 1]|
|Team members||15 (with up to 8 substitutes)|
|Mixed gender||Separate competitions|
|Type||Team sport, Outdoor|
|Olympic||Part of the Summer Olympic programme in 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924|
Rugby sevens included in 2016
The origin of rugby football is reputed to be an incident during a game of English school football at Rugby School in 1823, when William Webb Ellis is said to have picked up the ball and run with it. Although the evidence for the story is doubtful, it was immortalised at the school with a plaque unveiled in 1895. Despite the doubtful evidence, the Rugby World Cup trophy is named after Webb Ellis. Rugby football stems from the form of game played at Rugby School, which former pupils then introduced to their university.
Old Rugbeian Albert Pell, a student at Cambridge, is credited with having formed the first "football" team. During this early period different schools used different rules, with former pupils from Rugby and Eton attempting to carry their preferred rules through to their universities.
A significant event in the early development of rugby football was the production of the first written laws of the game at Rugby School in 1845, which was followed by the Cambridge Rules drawn up in 1848. Other important events include the Blackheath Club's decision to leave the Football Association in 1863 and the formation of the Rugby Football Union in 1871. The code was originally known as "rugby football"; it was not until after the schism in England in 1895, which resulted in the separate code of rugby league, that the sport took on the name "rugby union" to differentiate it from the league game. Despite the sport's full name of rugby union, it is known simply as rugby throughout most of the world.
The first rugby football international was played on 27 March 1871 between Scotland and England in Edinburgh. Scotland won the game 1-0. By 1881 both Ireland and Wales had representative teams, and in 1883 the first international competition, the Home Nations Championship had begun. 1883 is also the year of the first rugby sevens tournament, the Melrose Sevens, which is still held annually.
Two important overseas tours took place in 1888: a British Isles team visited Australia and New Zealand—although a private venture, it laid the foundations for future British and Irish Lions tours; and the 1888–89 New Zealand Native football team brought the first overseas team to British spectators.
During the early history of rugby union, a time before commercial air travel, teams from different continents rarely met. The first two notable tours both took place in 1888—the British Isles team touring New Zealand and Australia, followed by the New Zealand team touring Europe. Traditionally the most prestigious tours were the Southern Hemisphere countries of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa making a tour of a Northern Hemisphere, and the return tours made by a joint British and Irish team. Tours would last for months, due to long traveling times and the number of games undertaken; the 1888 New Zealand team began their tour in Hawkes Bay in June and did not complete their schedule until August 1889, having played 107 rugby matches. Touring international sides would play Test matches against international opponents, including national, club and county sides in the case of Northern Hemisphere rugby, or provincial/state sides in the case of Southern Hemisphere rugby.
Between 1905 and 1908, all three major Southern Hemisphere rugby countries sent their first touring teams to the Northern Hemisphere: New Zealand in 1905, followed by South Africa in 1906 and Australia in 1908. All three teams brought new styles of play, fitness levels and tactics, and were far more successful than critics had expected.
The New Zealand 1905 touring team performed a haka before each match, leading Welsh Rugby Union administrator Tom Williams to suggest that Wales player Teddy Morgan lead the crowd in singing the Welsh National Anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, as a response. After Morgan began singing, the crowd joined in: the first time a national anthem was sung at the start of a sporting event.[nb 2] In 1905 France played England in its first international match.
Rugby union was included as an event in the Olympic Games four times during the early 20th century. No international rugby games and union-sponsored club matches were played during the First World War, but competitions continued through service teams such as the New Zealand Army team. During the Second World War no international matches were played by most countries, though Italy, Germany and Romania played a limited number of games, and Cambridge and Oxford continued their annual University Match.
The first officially sanctioned international rugby sevens tournament took place in 1973 at Murrayfield, one of Scotland's biggest stadiums, as part of the Scottish Rugby Union centenary celebrations.
In 1987 the first Rugby World Cup was held in Australia and New Zealand, and the inaugural winners were New Zealand. The first World Cup Sevens tournament was held at Murrayfield in 1993. Rugby Sevens was introduced into the Commonwealth Games in 1998 and was added to the Olympic Games of 2016.
Rugby union was an amateur sport until the IRB declared the game "open" in August 1995 (shortly after the completion of the 1995 World Cup), removing restrictions on payments to players. However, the pre-1995 period of rugby union was marked by frequent accusations of "shamateurism", including an investigation in Britain by a House of Commons Select committee in early 1995. Following the introduction of professionalism trans-national club competitions were started, with the Heineken Cup in the Northern Hemisphere and Super Rugby in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Tri Nations, an annual international tournament involving Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, kicked off in 1996. In 2012, this competition was extended to include Argentina, a country whose impressive performances in international games (especially finishing in third place in the 2007 Rugby World Cup) was deemed to merit inclusion in the competition. As a result of the expansion to four teams, the tournament was renamed The Rugby Championship.
The main responsibilities of the forward players are to gain and retain possession of the ball. Players in these positions are generally bigger and stronger and take part in the scrum and line-out. The forwards are often collectively referred to as the 'pack', especially when in the scrum formation.
The front row consists of three players: two props (the loosehead prop and the tighthead prop) and the hooker. The role of the two props is to support the hooker during scrums, to provide support for the jumpers during line-outs and to provide strength and power in rucks and mauls. The third position in the front row is the hooker. The hooker is a key position in attacking and defensive play and is responsible for winning the ball in the scrum. Hookers normally throw the ball in at line-outs.
The second row consists of two locks or lock forwards. Locks are usually the tallest players in the team, and specialize as line-out jumpers. The main role of the lock in line-outs is to make a standing jump, often supported by the other forwards, to either collect the thrown ball or ensure the ball comes down on their side. Locks also have an important role in the scrum, binding directly behind the three front row players and providing forward drive.
The back row, not to be confused with ‘Backs’, is the third and final row of the forward positions, they are often referred to as the loose forwards. The three positions in the back row are the two flankers and the number 8. The two flanker positions called the blindside flanker and openside flanker, are the final row in the scrum. They are usually the most mobile forwards in the game. Their main role is to win possession through 'turn overs'. The number 8 packs down between the two locks at the back of the scrum. The role of the number 8 in the scrum is to control the ball after it has been heeled back from the front of the pack and the position provides a link between the forwards and backs during attacking phases.
The backs' role is to create and convert point-scoring opportunities. They are generally smaller, faster and more agile than the forwards. Another distinction between the backs and the forwards is that the backs are expected to have superior kicking and ball-handling skills, especially the fly-half, scrum-half, and full-back.
The half-backs consist of two positions, the scrum-half and the fly-half. The fly-half is crucial to a team's game plan, orchestrating the team's performance. They are usually the first to receive the ball from the scrum-half following a breakdown, lineout, or scrum, and need to be decisive with what actions to take and be effective at communicating with the outside backs. Many fly-halves are also their team's goal kickers. The scrum-half is the link between the forwards and the backs. They receive the ball from the lineout and remove the ball from the back of the scrum, usually passing it to the fly-half. They also feed the scrum and sometimes have to act as a fourth loose forward.
There are four three quarter positions, the inside centre, outside centre and left and right wings. The centres will attempt to tackle attacking players; whilst in attack, they should employ speed and strength to breach opposition defences. The wings are generally positioned on the outside of the backline. Their primary function is to finish off moves and score tries. Wings are usually the fastest players in the team and are elusive runners who use their speed to avoid tackles.
The fullback normally position themselves several metres behind the back line. They often field opposition kicks and are usually the last line of defence should an opponent break through the back line. Two of the most important attributes of a good fullback are dependable catching skills and a good kicking game.
Rugby union is played between two teams – the one that scores more points wins the game. Points can be scored in several ways: a try, scored by grounding the ball in the in-goal area (between the goal line and the dead-ball line), is worth 5 points and a subsequent conversion kick scores 2 points; a successful penalty kick or a drop goal each score 3 points. The values of each of these scoring methods have been changed over the years.
The field of play on a rugby pitch is as near as possible to a maximum of 144 metres (157 yd) long by 70 metres (77 yd) wide. In actual gameplay there should be a maximum of 100 metres (109 yd) between the two try-lines, with anywhere between 10 and 22 metres behind each try line to serve as the in-goal area. Several lines cross the field, notably the halfway line and the "twenty-two", which is 22 metres (24 yd) from the goal line.
Stricter rules apply to the pitch size for matches between national representative teams. The same maximums apply in this case, but the distance between the two try-lines must also be at least 94 metres (103 yd) and the pitch must be at least 68 metres (74 yd) wide.
At the beginning of the game, the captains and the referee toss a coin to decide which team will kick off first. Play then starts with a dropkick, with the players chasing the ball into the opposition's territory, and the other side trying to retrieve the ball and advance it. If the ball does not reach the opponent's 10-metre line the opposing team has two choices: to have the ball kicked off again, or to have a scrum at the centre of the half-way line. If the player with the ball is tackled, frequently a ruck will result.
Games are divided into 40-minute halves, with a break in the middle. The sides exchange ends of the field after the half-time break. Stoppages for injury or to allow the referee to take disciplinary action do not count as part of the playing time, so that the elapsed time is usually longer than 80 minutes. The referee is responsible for keeping time, even when—as in many professional tournaments—he is assisted by an official time-keeper. If time expires while the ball is in play, the game continues until the ball is "dead", and only then will the referee blow the whistle to signal half-time or full-time; but if the referee awards a penalty or free-kick, the game continues.
In the knockout stages of rugby competitions, most notably the Rugby World Cup, two extra time periods of 10 minutes periods are played (with an interval of 5 minutes in between) if the game is tied after full-time. If scores are level after 100 minutes then the rules call for 20 minutes of sudden-death extra time to be played. If the sudden-death extra time period results in no scoring a kicking competition is used to determine the winner. However, no match in the history of the Rugby World Cup has ever gone past 100 minutes into a sudden-death extra time period.
Forward passing (throwing the ball ahead to another player) is not allowed; the ball can be passed laterally or backwards. The ball tends to be moved forward in three ways — by kicking, by a player running with it or within a scrum or maul. Only the player with the ball may be tackled or rucked. When a ball is knocked forward by a player with their arms, a "knock-on" is committed, and play is restarted with a scrum.
Any player may kick the ball forward in an attempt to gain territory. When a player anywhere in the playing area kicks indirectly into touch so that the ball first bounces in the field of play, the throw-in is taken where the ball went into touch. If the player kicks directly into touch (i.e. without bouncing in-field first) from within one's own 22-metre line, the lineout is taken by the opposition where the ball went into touch, but if the ball is kicked into touch directly by a player outside the 22-metre line, the lineout is taken level to where the kick was taken.
The aim of the defending side is to stop the player with the ball, either by bringing them to ground (a tackle, which is frequently followed by a ruck) or by contesting for possession with the ball-carrier on their feet (a maul). Such a circumstance is called a breakdown and each is governed by a specific law.
A player may tackle an opposing player who has the ball by holding them while bringing them to ground. Tacklers cannot tackle above the shoulder (the neck and head are out of bounds), and the tackler has to attempt to wrap their arms around the player being tackled to complete the tackle. It is illegal to push, shoulder-charge, or to trip a player using feet or legs, but hands may be used (this being referred to as a tap-tackle or ankle-tap). Tacklers may not tackle an opponent who has jumped to catch a ball until the player has landed.
Rucking and Mauling
Mauls occur after a player with the ball has come into contact with an opponent but the handler remains on his feet; once any combination of at least three players have bound themselves a maul has been set. A ruck is similar to the maul, but in this case the ball has gone to ground with at least three attacking players binding themselves on the ground in an attempt to secure the ball.
When the ball leaves the side of the field, a line-out is awarded against the team which last touched the ball. Forward players from each team line up a metre apart, perpendicular to the touchline and between 5 m and 15 m from the touchline. The ball is thrown from the touchline down the centre of the lines of forwards by a player (usually the hooker) from the team that did not play the ball into touch. The exception to this is when the ball went out from a penalty, in which case the side who gained the penalty throws the ball in.
Both sides compete for the ball and players may lift their teammates. A jumping player cannot be tackled until they stand and only shoulder-to-shoulder contact is allowed; deliberate infringement of this law is dangerous play, and results in a penalty kick.
A scrum is a way of restarting the game safely and fairly after a minor infringement. It is awarded when the ball has been knocked or passed forward, if a player takes the ball over his own try line and puts the ball down, when a player is accidentally offside or when the ball is trapped in a ruck or maul with no realistic chance of being retrieved. A team may also opt for a scrum if awarded a penalty.
A scrum is formed by the eight forwards from each team binding together in three rows. The front row consists of the two props (loosehead and tighthead) either side of the hooker. The second row consists of two locks and the two flankers. Behind the second row is the number 8. This formation is known as the 3–4–1 formation. Once a scrum is formed the scrum-half from the team awarded the feed rolls the ball into the gap between the two front-rows known as the tunnel. The two hookers then compete for possession by hooking the ball backwards with their feet, while each pack tries to push the opposing pack backwards to help gain possession. The side that wins possession transfers the ball to the back of the scrum, where it is picked up either by the number 8 or by the scrum-half.
There are three match officials: a referee, and two assistant referees. The latter, formerly known as touch judges, had the primary function of indicating when the ball had gone into "touch"; their role has been expanded and they are now expected to assist the referee in a number of areas, such as watching for foul play and checking offside lines. In addition, for matches in high level competitions, there is often a television match official (TMO; popularly called the "video referee"), to assist with certain decisions, linked up to the referee by radio. The referees have a system of hand signals to indicate their decisions.
Common offences include tackling above the shoulders, collapsing a scrum, ruck or maul, not releasing the ball when on the ground, or being offside. The non-offending team has a number of options when awarded a penalty: a "tap" kick, when the ball is kicked a very short distance from hand, allowing the kicker to regather the ball and run with it; a punt, when the ball is kicked a long distance from hand, for field position; a place-kick, when the kicker will attempt to score a goal; or a scrum. Players may be sent off (signalled by a red card) or temporarily suspended ("sin-binned") for ten minutes (yellow card) for foul play or repeated infringements, and may not be replaced.
Occasionally, infringements are not caught by the referee during the match and these may be "cited" by the citing commissioner after the match and have punishments (usually suspension for a number of weeks) imposed on the infringing player.
During the match, players may be replaced (for injury) or substituted (for tactical reasons). A player who has been replaced may not rejoin play unless he was temporarily replaced to have bleeding controlled; a player who has been substituted may return temporarily, to replace a player who has a blood injury or has suffered a concussion, or permanently, if he is replacing a front-row forward. In international matches, eight replacements are allowed; in domestic or cross-border tournaments, at the discretion of the responsible national union(s), the number of replacements may be nominated to a maximum of eight, of whom three must be sufficiently trained and experienced to provide cover for the three front row positions.
Prior to 2016, all substitutions, no matter the cause, counted against the limit during a match. In 2016, World Rugby changed the law so that substitutions made to replace a player deemed unable to continue due to foul play by the opposition would no longer count against the match limit. This change was introduced in January of that year in the Southern Hemisphere and June in the Northern Hemisphere.
The most basic items of equipment for a game of rugby union are the ball itself, a rugby shirt (also known as a "jersey"), rugby shorts, socks, and boots. The rugby ball is oval in shape (technically a prolate spheroid), and is made up of four panels. The ball was historically made of leather, but in the modern era most games use a ball made from a synthetic material. The WR lays out specific dimensions for the ball, 280-300mm in length, 740-770mm in circumference of length and 580-620mm in circumference of width. Rugby boots have soles with studs to allow grip on the turf of the pitch. The studs may be either metal or plastic but must not have any sharp edges or ridges.
Protective equipment is optional and strictly regulated. The most common items are mouthguards, which are worn by almost all players, and are compulsory in some rugby-playing nations. Other protective items that are permitted include head gear; thin (not more than 10 mm thick), non-rigid shoulder pads and shin guards; which are worn underneath socks. Bandages or tape can be worn to support or protect injuries; some players wear tape around the head to protect the ears in scrums and rucks. Female players may also wear chest pads. Although not worn for protection, some types of fingerless mitts are allowed to aid grip.
It is the responsibility of the match officials to check players' clothing and equipment before a game to ensure that it conforms to the laws of the game.
The international governing body of rugby union (and associated games such as sevens) is World Rugby (WR). The WR headquarters are in Dublin, Ireland. WR, founded in 1886, governs the sport worldwide and publishes the game's laws and rankings. As of February 2014, WR (then known as the IRB, for International Rugby Board) recorded 119 unions in its membership, 101 full members and 18 associate member countries. According to WR, rugby union is played by men and women in over 100 countries. WR controls the Rugby World Cup, the Women's Rugby World Cup, Rugby World Cup Sevens, HSBC Sevens Series, HSBC Women's Sevens Series, World Under 20 Championship, World Under 20 Trophy, Nations Cup and the Pacific Nations Cup. WR holds votes to decide where each of these events are to be held, except in the case of the Sevens World Series for men and women, for which WR contracts with several national unions to hold individual events.
Six regional associations, which are members of WR, form the next level of administration; these are:
SANZAAR (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina Rugby) is a joint venture of the South African Rugby Union, New Zealand Rugby, Rugby Australia and the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) that operates Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri Nations before the entry of Argentina). Although UAR initially had no representation on the former SANZAR board, it was granted input into the organisation's issues, especially with regard to The Rugby Championship, and became a full SANZAAR member in 2016 (when the country entered Super Rugby).
National unions oversee rugby union within individual countries and are affiliated to WR. Since 2016, the WR Council has 40 seats. A total of 11 unions—the eight foundation unions of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France, plus Argentina, Canada and Italy—have two seats each. In addition, the six regional associations have two seats each. Four more unions—Georgia, Japan, Romania and the USA—have one seat each. Finally, the Chairman and Vice Chairman, who usually come from one of the eight foundation unions (although the current Vice Chairman, Agustín Pichot, is with the non-foundation Argentine union) have one vote each.
The earliest countries to adopt rugby union were England, the country of inception, and the other three Home Nations, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. The spread of rugby union as a global sport has its roots in the exporting of the game by British expatriates, military personnel, and overseas university students. The first rugby club in France was formed by British residents in Le Havre in 1872, while the next year Argentina recorded its first game: 'Banks' v 'City' in Buenos Aires.
A rugby club was formed in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia in 1864; while the sport was said to have been introduced to New Zealand by Charles Monro in 1870, who played rugby while a student at Christ's College, Finchley.
Several island nations have embraced the sport of rugby. Rugby was first played in Fiji circa 1884 by European and Fijian soldiers of the Native Constabulary at Ba on Viti Levu island. Fiji then sent their first overseas team to Samoa in 1924, who in turn set up their own union in 1927. Along with Tonga, other countries to have national rugby teams in Oceania include the Cook Islands, Niue, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
In North America a club formed in Montreal in 1868, Canada's first club. The city of Montreal also played its part in the introduction of the sport in the United States, when students of McGill University played against a team from Harvard University in 1874.
Although the exact date of arrival of rugby union in Trinidad and Tobago is unknown, their first club Northern RFC was formed in 1923, a national team was playing by 1927 and due to a cancelled tour to British Guiana in 1933, switched their venue to Barbados; introducing rugby to the island. Other Atlantic countries to play rugby union include Jamaica and Bermuda.
The growth of rugby union in Europe outside the 6 Nations countries in terms of playing numbers has been sporadic. Historically, British and Irish home teams played the Southern Hemisphere teams of Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, as well as France. The rest of Europe were let to play amongst themselves. During a period when it had been isolated by the British and Irish Unions, France, lacking international competition, became the only European team from the top tier to regularly play the other European countries; mainly Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Romania, Poland, Italy and Czechoslovakia. In 1934, instigated by the French Rugby Federation, FIRA (Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur) was formed to organise rugby union outside the authority of the IRFB. The founding members were Italy, Romania, Netherlands, Portugal, Czechoslovakia, and Sweden.
Other European rugby playing nations of note include Russia, whose first officially recorded match is marked by an encounter between Dynamo Moscow and the Moscow Institute of Physical Education in 1933. Rugby union in Portugal also took hold between the First and Second World Wars, with a Portuguese National XV set up in 1922 and an official championship started in 1927.
In 1999, FIRA agreed to place itself under the auspices of the IRB, transforming itself into a strictly European organising body. Accordingly, it changed its name to FIRA–AER (Fédération Internationale de Rugby Amateur – Association Européenne de Rugby). It adopted its current name of Rugby Europe in 2014.
Although Argentina is the best-known rugby playing nation in South America, founding the Argentine Rugby Union in 1899, several other countries on the continent have a long history. Rugby had been played in Brazil since the end of the 19th century, but the game was played regularly only from 1926, when São Paulo beat Santos in an inter-city match. It took Uruguay several aborted attempts to adapt to rugby, led mainly by the efforts of the Montevideo Cricket Club; these efforts succeeded in 1951 with the formation of a national league and four clubs. Other South American countries that formed a rugby union include Chile (1948), and Paraguay (1968).
Many Asian countries have a tradition of playing rugby dating from the British Empire. India began playing rugby in the early 1870s, the Calcutta Football Club forming in 1873. However, with the departure of a local British army regiment, interest in rugby diminished in the area. In 1878, The Calcutta Football Club was disbanded, and rugby in India faltered. Sri Lanka claims to have founded their union in 1878, and although little official information from the period is available, the team won the All-India cup in Madras in 1920. The first recorded match in Malaysia was in 1892, but the first confirmation of rugby is the existence of the HMS Malaya Cup which was first presented in 1922 and is still awarded to the winners of the Malay sevens.
Rugby union was introduced to Japan in 1899 by two Cambridge students: Ginnosuke Tanaka and Edward Bramwell Clarke. The Japan RFU was founded in 1926 and its place in rugby history was cemented with the news that Japan will host the 2019 World Cup. It will be the first country outside the Commonwealth, Ireland and France to host the event, and this is viewed by the IRB as an opportunity for rugby union to extend its reach, particularly in Asia. Other Asian playing countries of note include Singapore, South Korea, China and The Philippines, while the former British colony of Hong Kong is notable within rugby for its development of the rugby sevens game, especially the Hong Kong Sevens tournament which was founded in 1976.
Rugby in the Middle East and the Gulf States has its history in the 1950s, with clubs formed by British and French Services stationed in the region after the Second World War. When these servicemen left, the clubs and teams were kept alive by young professionals, mostly Europeans, working in these countries. The official union of Oman was formed in 1971. Bahrain founded its union a year later, while in 1975 the Dubai Sevens, the Gulf's leading rugby tournament, was created. Rugby remains a minority sport in the region with Israel, as of 2011, being the only member union from the Middle East to be included in the IRB World Rankings.
In 1875, rugby was introduced to South Africa by British soldiers garrisoned in Cape Town. During the late 19th and early 20th century, the sport in Africa was spread by settlers and colonials who often adopted a "whites-only" policy to playing the game. This resulted in rugby being viewed as a bourgeois sport by the indigenous people with limited appeal. The earliest countries to see the playing of competitive rugby include South Africa, and neighbouring Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe), which formed the Rhodesia Rugby Football Union in 1895.
In more recent times the sport has been embraced by several African nations. In the early 21st century Madagascar has experienced crowds of 40,000 at national matches, while Namibia, whose history of rugby can be dated from 1915, have qualified for the final stages of the World Cup four times since 1999. Other African nations to be represented in the World Rugby Rankings as Member Unions include Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia. South Africa and Kenya are among the 15 "core teams" that participate in every event of the men's World Rugby Sevens Series.
Records of women's rugby football date from the late 19th century, with the first documented source being Emily Valentine's writings, stating that she set up a rugby team in Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, Ireland in 1887. Although there are reports of early women's matches in New Zealand and France, one of the first notable games to prove primary evidence was the 1917 war-time encounter between Cardiff Ladies and Newport Ladies; a photo of which shows the Cardiff team before the match at the Cardiff Arms Park. In the past 30 years the game has grown in popularity among female athletes, and, according to WR, is now played in over 100 countries.
The English-based Women's Rugby Football Union (WRFU), responsible for women's rugby in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, was founded in 1983, and is the oldest formally organised national governing body for women's rugby. This was replaced in 1994 by the Rugby Football Union for Women (RFUW) in England with each of the other Home Nations governing their own countries. The premier international competition in rugby union for women is the Women's Rugby World Cup, first held in 1991. From 1994 through 2014, it was held every four years. Following the 2014 event, a new four-year cycle was instituted, with the Women's World Cup held in the middle year of the men's World Cup cycle. The new Women's World Cup cycle began in 2017, with future competitions every four years thereafter.
The most important tournament in rugby union is the Rugby World Cup, a men's tournament that has taken place every four years since 1987 among national rugby union teams. New Zealand has won the Rugby World Cup the most (3 times) and is the current cup holder, winning the 2015 Rugby World Cup held at Twickenham, beating Australia in the final. England (2003) were the first team from the Northern Hemisphere to win, the other champions being New Zealand (1987, 2011 and 2015), Australia (1991 and 1999), and South Africa (1995 and 2007).
The Rugby World Cup has continued to grow since its inception in 1987. The first tournament, in which 16 teams competed for the title, was broadcast to 17 countries with an accumulated total of 230 million television viewers. Ticket sales during the pool stages and finals of the same tournament was less than a million. The 2007 World Cup was contested by 94 countries with ticket sales of 3,850,000 over the pool and final stage. The accumulated television audience for the event, then broadcast to 200 countries, was a claimed 4.2 billion.
The Six Nations is an annual competition involving the European teams England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. Each country plays the other five once. After the initial internationals between England and Scotland, Ireland and Wales began competing in the 1880s, forming the Home International Championships. France joined the tournament in the 1900s and in 1910 the term Five Nations first appeared. However, the Home Nations (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) excluded France in 1931 amid a run of poor results, allegations of professionalism and concerns over on-field violence. France then rejoined in 1939–1940, though World War II halted proceedings for a further eight years. France has played in all the tournaments since WWII, the first of which was played in 1947. In 2000, Italy became the sixth nation in the contest and Rome's Stadio Olimpico has replaced Stadio Flaminio, as the venue for their home games since 2013. The current Six Nations champions are Wales.
The Rugby Championship is the Southern Hemisphere's annual international series for that region's top national teams. From its inception in 1996 through 2011, it was known as the Tri Nations, as it featured the hemisphere's traditional powers of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. These teams have dominated world rankings in recent years, and many considered the Tri Nations to be the toughest competition in international rugby. The Tri Nations was initially played on a home and away basis with the three nations playing each other twice.
In 2006 a new system was introduced where each nation plays the others three times, though in 2007 and 2011 the teams played each other only twice, as both were World Cup years. Since Argentina's strong performances in the 2007 World Cup, after the 2009 Tri Nations tournament, SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand and Australian Rugby) invited the Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) to join an expanded Four Nations tournament in 2012. The competition has been officially rechristened as The Rugby Championship beginning with the 2012 edition. The competition reverted to the Tri Nations' original home-and-away format, but now involving four teams. In World Cup years, an abbreviated tournament is held in which each team plays the others only once. New Zealand are the current champions, having won the 2018 title with a round to spare.
Rugby union was played at the Olympic Games in 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924. As per Olympic rules, the nations of Scotland, Wales and England were not allowed to play separately as they are not sovereign states. In 1900, France won the gold, beating Great Britain 27 points to 8 and defeating Germany 27 points to 17. In 1908, Australia defeated Great Britain, claiming the gold medal, the score being 32 points to three. In 1920, the United States, fielding a team with many players new to the sport of rugby, upset France in a shock win, eight points to zero. In 1924, the United States again defeated France 17 to 3, becoming the only team to win gold twice in the sport.
In 2009 the International Olympic Committee voted with a majority of 81 to 8 that rugby union be reinstated as an Olympic sport in at least the 2016 and 2020 games, but in the sevens, 4-day tournament format. This is something the rugby world has aspired to for a long time and Bernard Lapasset, president of the International Rugby Board, said the Olympic gold medal would be considered to be "the pinnacle of our sport" (Rugby Sevens).
Rugby sevens has been played at the Commonwealth Games since the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur. The most gold medal holders are New Zealand who have won the competition on four successive occasions until South Africa beat them in 2014. Rugby union has also been an Asian Games event since the 1998 games in Bangkok, Thailand. In the 1998 and 2002 editions of the games, both the usual fifteen-a-side variety and rugby sevens were played, but from 2006 onwards, only rugby sevens was retained. In 2010, the women's rugby sevens event was introduced. The event is likely to remain a permanent fixture of the Asian Games due to elevation of rugby sevens as an Olympic sport from the 2016 Olympics onwards. The present gold medal holders in the sevens tournament, held in 2014, are Japan in the men's event and China in the women's.
Women's international rugby union began in 1982, with a match between France and the Netherlands played in Utrecht. As of 2009 over six hundred women's internationals have been played by over forty different nations.
The first Women's Rugby World Cup was held in Wales in 1991, and was won by the United States. The second tournament took place in 1994, and from that time through 2014 was held every four years. The New Zealand Women's team then won four straight World Cups (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010) before England won in 2014. Following the 2014 event, World Rugby moved the next edition of the event to 2017, with a new four-year cycle from that point forward. New Zealand are the current World Cup holders.
As well as the Women's Rugby World Cup there are also other regular tournaments, including a Six Nations, run in parallel to the men's competition. The Women's Six Nations, first played in 1996 has been dominated by England, who have won the tournament on 14 occasions, including a run of seven consecutive wins from 2006 to 2012. However, since then, England have won only in 2017; reigning champion France have won in each even-numbered year (2014, 2016, 2018) whilst Ireland won in 2013 and 2015.
Rugby union has been professionalized since 1995. The following table shows fully professional rugby competitions. (Semi-professional competitions are excluded.)
|Super Rugby||15 [a]||New Zealand (5), Australia (4),
South Africa (4), Argentina (1), Japan (1)
|Currie Cup||9||South Africa||11,125|
|Pro14||14||Ireland (4), Wales (4),
Scotland (2), Italy (2), South Africa (2) [b]
|Mitre 10 Cup||14||New Zealand||7,203|
|Rugby Pro D2||16||France||4,222|
|Major League Rugby||9||Canada (1), United States (8)||2,300 (in 2018)|
|NRC||8 [c]||Australia (7), Fiji (1)||1,450|
|Rugby Premier League||8||Russia||Unknown|
The game of rugby union has spawned several variants of the full-contact, 15-a-side code. The two more common differences applied to the variants of the sport lie in either fewer players or reduced player contact. Of the variants, the oldest is Rugby sevens (7s, or VIIs), a fast-paced variant which originated in Melrose, Scotland in 1883. In rugby sevens, there are only seven players per side, and each half is normally seven minutes.
Major tournaments include the Hong Kong Sevens and Dubai Sevens, both held in areas not normally associated with the highest levels of the 15-a-side game. A more recent variant of the sport is Rugby tens (10's or Xs), a Malaysian variant with ten players per side.
Due to the physical nature of playing rugby, several variants have been created to introduce the sport to children with a reduced level of physical contact. Of these versions, Touch rugby, in which "tackles" are made by simply touching the ball carrier with two hands, is popular as a mixed sex version of the sport played by both children and adults. Tag Rugby, is a version in which the participants wear a belt with two hook-and-loop fastener tags, the removal of either counting as a 'tackle'. Tag Rugby also varies in the fact that kicking the ball is not allowed.
Mini rugby is another variant of rugby union aimed at fostering the sport in children. It is played with only eight players and on a smaller pitch. Similar to Tag Rugby, American Flag Rugby, (AFR), is a mixed gender, non-contact imitation of rugby union designed for American children entering grades K-9. Both American Flag Rugby and Mini Rugby differ to Tag Rugby in that they introduce more advanced elements of rugby union as the participants age.
Rugby league was formed as an administrative break from the English union before changing its laws, becoming a code in its own right. The two sports continue to influence each other to this day.
James Naismith took aspects of many sports including rugby to invent basketball. The most obvious contribution is the jump ball's similarity to the line-out as well as the underhand shooting style that dominated the early years of the sport. Naismith played rugby at McGill University.
According to a 2011 report by the Centre for the International Business of Sport, over four and a half million people play rugby union or one of its variants organised by the IRB. This is an increase of 19 percent since the previous report in 2007. The report also claimed that since 2007 participation has grown by 33 percent in Africa, 22 percent in South America and 18 percent in Asia and North America. In 2014 the IRB published a breakdown of the total number of players worldwide by national unions. It recorded a total of 6.6 million players globally, of those, 2.36 million were registered members playing for a club affiliated to their country's union. The 2016 World Rugby Year in Review reported 8.5 million players, of which 3.2 million were registered union players and 1.9 million were registered club players; 22% of all players were female.
The most capped international player from the tier 1 nations is former New Zealand openside flanker and captain Richie McCaw who has played in 148 internationals. While the top scoring tier 1 international player is New Zealand's Dan Carter, who has amassed 1442 points during his career. In April 2010 Lithuania which is a second tier rugby nation, broke the record of consecutive international wins for second tier rugby nations. In 2016, the All Blacks of New Zealand set the new record 18 consecutive test wins among tier 1 rugby nations, bettering their previous consecutive run of 17. This record was equalled by England on 11 March 2017 with a win over Scotland at Twickenham. The highest scoring international match between two recognised unions was Hong Kong's 164–13 victory over Singapore on 27 October 1994. While the largest winning margin of 152 points is held by two countries, Japan (a 155–3 win over Chinese Taipei) and Argentina (152–0 over Paraguay) both in 2002.
The record attendance for a rugby union game was set on 15 July 2000 in which New Zealand defeated Australia 39–35 in a Bledisloe Cup game at Stadium Australia in Sydney before 109,874 fans. The record attendance for a match in Europe of 104,000 (at the time a world record) was set on 1 March 1975 when Scotland defeated Wales 12–10 at Murrayfield in Edinburgh during the 1975 Five Nations Championship. The record attendance for a domestic club match is 99,124, set when Racing 92 defeated Toulon in the 2016 Top 14 final on 24 June at Camp Nou in Barcelona. The match had been moved from its normal site of Stade de France near Paris due to scheduling conflicts with France's hosting of UEFA Euro 2016.
Thomas Hughes 1857 novel Tom Brown's Schooldays, set at Rugby School, includes a rugby football match, also portrayed in the 1940s film of the same name. James Joyce mentions Irish team Bective Rangers in several of his works, including Ulysses (1922) and Finnegans Wake (1939), while his 1916 semi-autobiographical work A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has an account of Ireland international James Magee. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in his 1924 Sherlock Holmes tale The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, mentions that Dr Watson played rugby for Blackheath.
Henri Rousseau's 1908 work Joueurs de football shows two pairs of rugby players competing. Other French artists to have represented the sport in their works include Albert Gleizes' Les Joueurs de football (1912), Robert Delaunay's Football. L'Équipe de Cardiff (1916) and André Lhote's Partie de Rugby (1917). The 1928 Gold Medal for Art at the Antwerp Olympics was won by Luxembourg's Jean Jacoby for his work Rugby.
In film, Ealing Studios' 1949 comedy A Run for Your Money and the 1979 BBC Wales television film Grand Slam both centre on fans attending a match. Films that explore the sport in more detail include independent production Old Scores (1991) and Forever Strong (2008). Invictus (2009), based on John Carlin's book Playing the Enemy, explores the events of the 1995 Rugby World Cup and Nelson Mandela's attempt to use the sport to connect South Africa's people post-apartheid.
In public art and sculpture there are many works dedicated to the sport. There is a 27 ft bronze statue of a rugby line-out by pop artist Gerald Laing at Twickenham and one of rugby administrator Sir Tasker Watkins at the Millennium Stadium. Rugby players to have been honoured with statues include Gareth Edwards in Cardiff and Danie Craven in Stellenbosch.
The Australia national rugby union team, nicknamed the Wallabies, is controlled by Rugby Australia. The team first played at Sydney in 1899, winning their first test match against the touring British Isles team.
Australia have competed in all eight Rugby World Cups, winning the final on two occasions and also finishing as runner-up twice. In 1991 Australia beat England in the final at Twickenham and won again in 1999 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff when their opponents in the final were France.The Wallabies also compete annually in The Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri-Nations), along with southern hemisphere counterparts Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa. They have won this championship on four occasions. Australia also plays Test matches against the various rugby-playing nations.
More than a dozen former Wallabies players have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.England national rugby union team
The England national rugby union team competes in the annual Six Nations Championship with France, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, and Wales. They have won this championship on a total of 28 occasions (with the addition of 10 shared victories), 13 times winning the Grand Slam and 25 times winning the Triple Crown, making them the most successful outright winners in the tournament's history. They are ranked fourth in the world by the International Rugby Board as of 18 March 2019. England are to date the only team from the northern hemisphere to win the Rugby World Cup, when they won the tournament back in 2003. They were also runners-up in 1991 and 2007.
The history of the team extends back to 1871 when the English rugby team played their first official Test match, losing to Scotland by one try. England dominated the early Home Nations Championship (now the Six Nations) which started in 1883. Following the schism of rugby football in 1895 into union and league, England did not win the Championship again until 1910. England first played against New Zealand in 1905, South Africa in 1906, and Australia in 1909. England was one of the teams invited to take part in the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 and went on to appear in the final in the second tournament in 1991, losing 12–6 to Australia. Following their 2003 Six Nations Championship Grand Slam, they went on to win the 2003 Rugby World Cup – defeating Australia 20–17 in extra time. They again contested the final in 2007, losing 15–6 to South Africa.
England players traditionally wear a white shirt with a rose embroidered on the chest, white shorts, and navy blue socks with a white trim.
Their home ground is Twickenham Stadium where they first played in 1910. The team is administered by the Rugby Football Union (RFU). Four former players have been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame; one of these is also a member of the IRB Hall of Fame. Seven other former players are members of the IRB Hall—four solely for their accomplishments as players, two solely for their achievements in other roles in the sport, and one for achievements both as a player and administrator.English rugby union system
Rugby union in England consists of 101 leagues, which includes professional leagues at the highest level, down to amateur regional leagues. Promotion and relegation is in place throughout the system.France national rugby union team
The France national rugby union team competes annually against England, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in the Six Nations Championship. They have won the championship outright seventeen times, shared it a further eight times, and have completed nine grand slams. Ten former French players have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. France are currently ranked 8th in the World Rugby Rankings as of March 18th 2019.
Rugby was introduced to France in 1872 by the British, and on New Years Day 1906 the national side played its first Test match – against New Zealand in Paris. France played sporadically against the Home Nations until they joined them to form a Five Nations tournament (now the Six Nations Championship) in 1910. France also competed in the rugby competitions at early Summer Olympics, winning the gold medal in 1900 and two silver medals in the 1920s. The national team came of age during the 1950s and 1960s, winning their first Five Nations title outright in 1959. They won their first Grand Slam in 1968. Since the inaugural World Cup in 1987, France have qualified for the knock-out stage of every tournament. They have reached the final three times, losing to the All Blacks in 1987 and 2011 and to Australia in 1999. France hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup, where, as in 2003, they were beaten in the semi-finals by England and will once again host the tournament in 2023.
France traditionally play in blue shirts with white shorts and red socks, and are commonly referred to as les tricolores or les bleus. The French emblem is a golden rooster imposed upon a red shield. Their alternative strip is composed of a white shirt and navy blue shorts and socks. French international matches are played at several venues across the country; the Stade de France in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis is used for their games during the Six Nations, and they have a formidable home record at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille where they have only lost twice, to Argentina in 2004 and to New Zealand in 2009.Ireland national rugby union team
The Ireland national rugby union team represents the island of Ireland (including both the Republic of Ireland and Nothern Ireland) in rugby union. They are ranked third in the world by World Rugby as of 18 March 2019. The team competes annually in the current Six Nations Championship, which they have won fourteen times outright and shared nine times in its various formats. The team also competes every four years in the Rugby World Cup, where they reached the quarter-final stage in all but two competitions (1999 and 2007). Ireland is also one of the four unions that make up the British and Irish Lions – players eligible to play for Ireland are also eligible for the Lions.
The Ireland national team dates to 1875, when it played its first international match against England. Ireland's highest ever position in the World Rugby Rankings is second, which they reached for the first time in 2015.Eleven former Ireland players have earned induction into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.Israel Folau
Israel Folau (Tongan: Isileli Folau; born 3 April 1989) is an Australian professional rugby player who played for the New South Wales Waratahs in the Super Rugby. He has previously played professional rugby league and Australian rules football.
Folau played rugby league for the Melbourne Storm in the National Rugby League (NRL) from 2007 to 2008, where he broke the record for most tries in a debut year. He then played with the Brisbane Broncos from 2009 to 2010. Playing as a wing or centre, Folau represented Queensland in the State of Origin and Australia, becoming the youngest player to play for both teams.
In 2011, Folau joined the Greater Western Sydney Giants in the Australian Football League (AFL) and played for two seasons. In December 2012, Folau announced he was to switch codes again, this time for rugby union, and signed a one-year contract with the Waratahs. He made his international debut for Australia in 2013 against the British & Irish Lions. "Israel Folau Street" was named in his honour on October 2010 in a suburb of Goodna, Ipswich, Queensland where Folau played junior rugby league.Following anti-gay comments made on his social media accounts in April 2019, Rugby Australia announced their intention to void Folau's contract and remove him permanently from the Australian national team. That same day the chairman of the Australian Rugby League, Peter Beattie, announced that Folau would be banned from any NRL team in the future.New Zealand national rugby union team
The New Zealand national rugby union team, called the All Blacks, represents New Zealand in men's rugby union, which is known as the country's national sport. The team has won the last two Rugby World Cups, in 2011 and 2015 as well as the inaugural tournament in 1987.
They have a 77% winning record in test match rugby, and are the only international men’s side with a winning record against every opponent. Since their international debut in 1903, they have lost to only six of the 19 nations they have played in test matches. Since the introduction of the World Rugby Rankings in 2003, New Zealand has held the number one ranking longer than all other teams combined. The All Blacks jointly hold the record for the most consecutive test match wins for a tier one ranked nation, along with England.
New Zealand competes with Argentina, Australia and South Africa in The Rugby Championship. The All Blacks have won the trophy sixteen times in the competition's twenty-three-year history. New Zealand have completed a Grand Slam tour four times – 1978, 2005, 2008 and 2010. The All Blacks have been named the World Rugby Team of the Year ten times since the award was created in 2001, and an All Black has won the World Rugby Player of the Year award ten times over the same period. Fifteen former All Blacks have been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.
The team's first match was in 1884, and their first international test match was in 1903 against Australia in Sydney. The following year, they hosted their first ever home test, a match against a British Isles side in Wellington. This was followed by a 34-game (including 5 tests) tour of Europe and North America in 1905, where the team suffered only one defeat – their first ever test loss, against Wales.
New Zealand's early uniforms consisted of a black jersey with a silver fern and white knickerbockers. By the 1905 tour, they were wearing all black, except for the silver fern, and the name All Blacks dates from this time. The team perform a haka, a Māori challenge or posture dance, before each match. The haka has traditionally been Te Rauparaha's Ka Mate, although since 2005 Kapa o Pango has also been performed.Premiership Rugby
Premiership Rugby (officially known as Gallagher Premiership Rugby, or the Gallagher Premiership due to sponsorship reasons) is an English professional rugby union competition. The Premiership consists of twelve clubs, and is the top division of the English rugby union system. Premiership clubs qualify for Europe's two main club competitions, the European Rugby Champions Cup and the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The team finishing at the bottom of the Premiership each season is relegated to the second division, the RFU Championship; the winner of the Championship is promoted to the Premiership.
The competition has been played since 1987, and has evolved into the current Premiership system. The current champions are Saracens. The most recently promoted side are the Bristol Bears, who returned to the top flight in 2018.Pro14
The Pro14 (known as the Guinness PRO14 for sponsorship reasons) is an annual rugby union competition involving professional sides from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa and Wales. The league is one of the three major professional leagues in Europe (along with the English Premiership and the French Top 14), the most successful European teams from which go forward to compete in the European Rugby Champions Cup, the pan-European championship which replaced the Heineken Cup after the 2013–14 season.
Beginning with the creation of the Welsh-Scottish League in 1999, the league would become known as the Celtic League when it grew to include teams from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The league was sponsored by Irish cider makers Magners from the 2006–07 season until 2010–11. At the start of the 2010–11 season, the league expanded from 10 to 12 teams, adding two Italian teams. Following the end of Magners' sponsorship, the league was sponsored by RaboDirect from 2011–12 through to 2013–14. The Pro12 name was adopted in 2011 to reflect that the league now included teams from outside the Celtic nations. A further expansion to 14 teams took place from the 2017–18 season, with two South African teams joining the league. The current sponsorship deal with Guinness commenced at the beginning of the 2014–15 season.Rugby football
Rugby refers to the team sports rugby league and rugby union, but generally refers to rugby union due to its popularity throughout the globe.Legend claims that rugby football was started about 1845 in Rugby School, Rugby, Warwickshire, England, although forms of football in which the ball was carried and tossed date to medieval times. Rugby eventually split into two sports in 1895 when twenty-one amateur clubs split from the original Rugby Football Union, to form the Northern Rugby Football Union (NRFU)/Northern Union (later to be named rugby league in 1922) in the George Hotel, Huddersfield, Northern England over broken-time payments to players who took time off work to play the sport, thus making rugby league the first code to turn professional and pay players it was 100 years later in 1995, following the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa that rugby union would turn fully professional.Both sports are run by their respective world governing bodies World Rugby (rugby union) and the Rugby League International Federation (rugby league). Rugby football was one of many versions of football played at English public schools in the 19th century. Although rugby league initially used rugby union rules, they are now wholly separate sports. In addition to these two codes, both American and Canadian football evolved from rugby football.Rugby sevens
Rugby sevens (commonly known as simply sevens), and originally known as seven-a-side rugby, is a variant of rugby union in which teams are made up of seven players playing seven minute halves, instead of the usual 15 players playing 40 minute halves. Rugby sevens is administered by World Rugby, the body responsible for rugby union worldwide. The game is popular at all levels, with amateur and club tournaments generally held in the summer months. Sevens is one of the most well distributed forms of rugby, and is popular in parts of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and especially in the South Pacific.Rugby sevens originated in Melrose, Scotland in the 1880s; the Melrose Sevens tournament is still played annually. The popularity of rugby sevens increased further with the development of the Hong Kong Sevens in the 1970s and was later followed by the inclusion of the sport into the Commonwealth Games for the first time in 1998 and the establishment of the annual World Rugby Sevens Series in 1999 and the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series in 2012. In 2016, rugby sevens was contested in the Summer Olympics for the first time. It has also been played in regional events such as the Pan American Games and the Asian Games, and in 2018 a women's tournament was played for the first time at the Commonwealth Games.Rugby union positions
In the game of rugby union, there are 15 players on each team, comprising eight forwards (wearing jerseys numbered 1–8) and seven backs (numbered 9–15). In addition, there may be up to eight replacement players "on the bench", numbered 16–23. Players are not restricted to a single position, although they generally specialise in just one or two that suit their skills and body types. Players that play multiple positions are called "utility players".
The scrum (a contest used to restart play) must consist of eight players from each team: the "front row" (two props, a loosehead and tighthead, and a hooker), the "second row" (two locks), and a "back row" (two flankers, and a number 8). The players outside the scrum are called "the backs": half back, first five, second five, centre, two wings, and a fullback.
Early names, such as "three-quarters" (for the wings and centres) and "outside-halves" (for fly-half) are still used by many in the Northern Hemisphere, while in the Southern Hemisphere the fly-half and inside centre are colloquially called "first five-eighth" and "second five-eighth" respectively, while the scrum-half is known as the "half-back".
The backs play behind the forwards and are usually more lightly built and faster. Successful backs are skilful at passing and kicking. Full-backs need to be good defenders and kickers, and have the ability to catch a kicked ball. The wingers are usually among the fastest players in a team and score many of the tries. The centres' key attacking roles are to break through the defensive line and link successfully with wingers. The fly-half can be a good kicker and generally directs the backline. The scrum-half retrieves the ball from the forwards and needs a quick and accurate pass to get the ball to the backs (often firstly to the fly-half). Forwards compete for the ball in scrums and line-outs and are generally bigger and stronger than the backs. Props push in the scrums, while the hooker tries to "hook" the ball. Locks are tall and jump for the ball at the line-out after the hooker has thrown it in. The flankers and number eight should be the first forwards to a tackle and play an important role in securing possession of the ball for their team.Scotland national rugby union team
The Scotland national rugby union team is administered by the Scottish Rugby Union. The team takes part in the annual Six Nations Championship and participates in the Rugby World Cup, which takes place every four years. As of 18 March 2019, Scotland are 7th in the World Rugby Rankings.The Scottish rugby team dates back to 1871, where they beat England in the first international rugby union match at Raeburn Place. Scotland competed in the Five Nations from the inaugural tournament in 1883, winning it 14 times outright—including the last ever Five Nations in 1999—and sharing it another 8. In 2000 the competition accepted a sixth competitor, Italy, thus forming the Six Nations. Since this change, Scotland have yet to win the competition. The Rugby World Cup was introduced in 1987 and Scotland have competed in all eight competitions, the most recent being in 2015 where they were knocked out by Australia at the quarter-final stage in controversial circumstances. Their best finish came in 1991, where they lost to the All Blacks in the third place play-off.
Scotland have a strong rivalry with the English national team. They both annually compete for the Calcutta Cup. Each year, this fixture is played out as part of the Six Nations, with Scotland having last won in 2018.Six Nations Championship
The Six Nations Championship (known as the Guinness Six Nations for sponsorship reasons) is an annual international rugby union competition between the teams of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales. The current champions are Wales, who won the 2019 tournament.
The Six Nations is the successor to the Home Nations Championship (1883–1909 and 1932–39), played between teams from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, which was the first international rugby union tournament. With the addition of France, this became the Five Nations Championship (1910–31 and 1947–99), which in turn became the Six Nations Championship with the addition of Italy.
Wales hold the overall record, with 39 victories (27 outright and 12 shared) to England's 38 (10 shared victories), while England hold the record for outright wins with 28. Since the Six Nations era started in 2000, only Italy and Scotland have failed to win the Six Nations title, although Scotland were the last winners of the Five Nations.South Africa national rugby union team
The South Africa national rugby union team, commonly known as the Springboks, is governed by the South African Rugby Union. The Springboks play in green and gold jerseys with white shorts, and their emblems are the Springbok and the King Protea. The team has been representing South Africa in international rugby union since 30 July 1891, when they played their first test match against a British Isles touring team.
Although South Africa was instrumental in the creation of the Rugby World Cup competition, the Springboks did not compete in the first two World Cups in 1987 and 1991 because of anti-apartheid sporting boycotts of South Africa. The team made its World Cup debut in 1995, when the newly democratic South Africa hosted the tournament. The Springboks defeated the All Blacks 15–12 in the final, which is now remembered as one of the greatest moments in South Africa's sporting history, and a watershed moment in the post-Apartheid nation-building process. South Africa regained their title as champions 12 years later, when they defeated England 15–6 in the 2007 final. As a result of the 2007 World Cup tournament the Springboks were promoted to first place in the IRB World Rankings, a position they held until July the following year when New Zealand regained the top spot. They were named 2008 World Team of the Year at the Laureus World Sports Awards.The Springboks also compete in the annual Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri-Nations), along with southern-hemisphere counterparts Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. They have won this championship on three occasions in sixteen years. They also play Test matches against the various rugby-playing nations. Their position in the World Rugby Rankings has varied between the No. 1 and No. 7 positions.Super Rugby
Super Rugby is a professional men's rugby union competition involving teams from Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan. Building on various Southern Hemisphere competitions dating back to the South Pacific Championship in 1986, with teams from a number of southern nations, Super Rugby started as the Super 12 in the 1996 season with 12 teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The Super 12 was established by SANZAR after the sport became professional in 1995.
The name was changed to Super 14 with the addition of two teams for the 2006 season, and with expansion to 15 teams in the three countries for the 2011 season, the competition was rebranded as Super Rugby (with no number). In 2016 two new teams, the Jaguares from Argentina and Sunwolves from Japan, joined the competition, playing in two newly separated African groups.
In 2018, the competition underwent another change in format, this time dropping two teams (the Cheetahs and Kings) from the South African conference, and one (Western Force) from the Australian conference. This left the competition with 15 teams.
The competition has been dominated by New Zealand teams, who have won 16 times in 23 years. The Crusaders have won most often, with nine titles.The Rugby Championship
The Rugby Championship is an international rugby union competition contested annually by Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Prior to the 2012 tournament, when Argentina joined, it was known as the Tri Nations. The competition is administered by SANZAAR, a consortium consisting of four national governing bodies: the Argentine Rugby Union, Australian Rugby Union, the New Zealand Rugby Union and the South African Rugby Union.
The inaugural Tri Nations tournament was in 1996, and was won by New Zealand – known as the All Blacks. South Africa won their first title in 1998, and Australia their first in 2000. Following the last Tri Nations tournament in 2011, New Zealand had won ten championships, with South Africa and Australia on three titles each. The first Rugby Championship was won by New Zealand, who won all six of their matches.
New Zealand, Australia and South Africa have frequently been ranked among the top rugby nations with the latter two teams winning the Rugby World Cup twice and New Zealand winning it three times.United States national rugby union team
The United States national rugby union team, nicknamed the Eagles, is controlled by USA Rugby. USA Rugby is a member of Rugby Americas North, one of six regional governing bodies under World Rugby. Until sevens made its debut at the 2016 Rio Games, the United States was the reigning Olympic champion in rugby, having won gold at the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics.
As of November 26, 2018, the Eagles are ranked 12th in the world by the World Rugby Rankings. Their previous highest ranking, achieved ahead of the 2007 World Cup, was 14th; their lowest ranking was 20th, following a winless campaign in the 2008 Churchill Cup.
The highest profile tournament in which the Eagles play is the Rugby World Cup. The Eagles have played in all but one Rugby World Cup since the tournament began in 1987. The United States has expressed interest in hosting the 2027 Rugby World Cup.The United States competed in the Pacific Nations Cup every Summer from 2013 to 2015. Previously, the U.S. has competed in the now-defunct Churchill Cup and the Pan American Championship. In April 2015, USA Rugby announced the creation of a new, annual International Championship to be contested among the top-6 ranked rugby nations in the Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Uruguay and the United States. The contest was named the Americas Rugby Championship and began in 2016. The United States won the 2017 Americas Rugby Championship after drawing with Argentina XV. It was the United States' first 15-a-side rugby union title in over 90 years.Wales national rugby union team
The Wales national rugby union team (Welsh: Tîm rygbi'r undeb cenedlaethol Cymru) competes annually in the Six Nations Championship with England, France, Ireland, Italy and Scotland. Wales have won the Six Nations and its predecessors 27 times outright. Wales' most recent championship and Grand Slam victory came in 2019.
The governing body, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), was established in 1881, the same year that Wales played their first international against England. Wales' performances in the Home Nations Championship (now the Six Nations) continued to improve, experiencing their first 'golden age' between 1900 and 1911. They first played New Zealand, known as the All Blacks, in 1905, when they defeated them 3–0 in a famous match at Cardiff Arms Park. Welsh rugby struggled between the two World Wars, but experienced a second 'golden age' between 1969 and 1980 when they won eight Five Nations Championships.
Wales played in the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 where they achieved their best ever result of third. Following the sport allowing professionalism in 1995, Wales hosted the 1999 World Cup and, in 2005, won their first Six Nations Grand Slam. That was the first Grand Slam won by a team playing most of the matches away from home. Wales won three more Grand Slams in 2008, 2012 and 2019. In 2011, they came fourth in the Rugby World Cup.
Their home ground is the Millennium Stadium, currently known for sponsorship reasons as the Principality Stadium, completed in 1999 to replace the National Stadium at Cardiff Arms Park. Eight former Welsh players have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame; 10 were inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame prior to its 2014 merger into the World Rugby Hall.
International rugby union competitions
|Stick and ball sports|
Top-level rugby union club competitions
|Tier 1 nations|