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Learn More About Rugby

Rugby players during a game

What is the history of rugby?

Many forms of rugby existed across Europe; early recordings of matches begin in the 12th century. For hundreds of years, England banned the game due to its rough nature and overly rowdy audience. In the mid-1800s, schoolboys played while attending Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire. The official rules finally made their way to the page for all to read.

The first leagues began in 1871, with 21 clubs and schools coming together to form the Rugby Football Union. It spread internationally, most notably in countries under the control of the British Empire. Australia and New Zealand were both very early adopters of the game, and it's New Zealand's national sport.

Teams would take world tours, playing matches against other countries. The first Rugby World Cup took place in 1987 in New Zealand, who also won by defeating France in The Final. It is the third-most watched event in the world behind the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics.

Rugby at the Olympic Games

Pierre De Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee and father of the modern Olympic Games, helped establish rugby in France. It made its first appearance in 1900, with only three countries participating. Rugby returned in 1908 and 1920 with only two teams each time. Its final run was in 1924, and again, only three teams took part. The lack of interest has kept it out of the Olympics since then.

In 2005, a vote to introduce rugby sevens—a faster-paced version of the game with seven players on the field, instead of 15—into the 2012 Games took place; it lost to karate and squash. However, it won a bid for inclusion to the 2016 Games and will return in 2020.

What are the current Olympic rugby events?

There are men's and women's rugby sevens tournaments as of the 2016 Games.

Visit USA Rugby to learn more

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Rugby, Rugby Sevens

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