Rugby is without doubt one of the world’s greatest sports, and every four years the Rugby World Cup comes around, making the lives of us rugby fans just that little bit sweeter. We will be showing every rugby game on the TV screens in our pubs, and unfortunately many of us still don’t know the rules (and yes, we’d include some Rugby World Cup referees in that). Therefore, to help in building up your own personal rugby knowledge (so you can impress fellow fans over a pint, of course) here’s a few wonderful facts about the mighty game.
1. THE GAME WAS INVENTED BY A REBELLIOUS SCHOOLBOY
Rugby is said to have originated in 1823 at the prestigious Rugby School, when William Webb Ellis caught the ball whilst playing a game of football and ran into the opponent’s goal with it. To honour his creative skills, the trophy presented for winning the Rugby World Cup is named the ‘William Webb Ellis Cup’.
2. THE NOTION OF SINGING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM BEFORE A SPORTING EVENT ORIGINATED AT A RUGBY MATCH
It’s common knowledge that the New Zealand All Blacks perform their haka before the start of every rugby match. However, during a Rugby World Cup match in 1905, the Welsh responded to the traditional war-dance by breaking into an emotional song. They sang the country’s national anthem, ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’, and over time other countries and sports followed.
3. ORIGINALLY NO POINTS WERE AWARDED FOR A TRY
When the game first began, crossing the touch-line with a ball earned you the opportunity to try and score a goal, hence its name. Goals (and points) could only be scored by placing the ball on the ground and kicking it through the goalposts. Now in the Rugby World Cup a try is worth 5 points!
4. THE SAME WHISTLE HAS BEEN USED FOR EVERY OPENING RUGBY WORLD CUP GAME SINCE 1905
As it turns out, rugby fans are a sentimental bunch! The whistle is known as the Gil Evans whistle, named after the Welsh referee who was the first to use it. With over a hundred years in the game, it’s one of the longest whistles to be in use. Let’s hope it gets thoroughly cleaned.
5. YOU HAVE RUGBY TO THANK FOR THE INVENTION OF BASKETBALL
James Naismith, an American sports coach, wanted to keep his players in peak physical condition in the off-season before the Rugby World Cup, and invented basketball as the perfect indoor activity. He based the game off major rugby components, mixed with some football, lacrosse and hockey. You’re welcome Michael Jordan…
6. IF THE POPULATION OF RUGBY (THE TOWN!) WENT TO TWICKENHAM, THERE WOULD BE MORE THAN 11,000 EMPTY SEATS
The home of English rugby; the mighty Twickenham Stadium, is the largest rugby ground in the world, and is considered to have an absolutely unbeatable atmosphere. Our local Twickenham pubs, The Park and The Alexander Pope, often host fantastic post-match parties, with the crowd usually coming in from the neighbouring stadium. However, for some, actually watching the match in a pub (it’s warmer, and the bar is closer!) can’t be beaten, with pubs like The Orange Tree and Old Ship, Richmond having an unmatched – excuse the pun – pub game-day ambience.best pubs for the rugby
7. THE HIGHEST EVER POINTS WON AT A RUGBY WORLD CUP GAME WAS BY NEW ZEALAND IN 1995
The All Blacks beat Japan 145 points to 17 in a 1995 Rugby World Cup game. Ouch. Let’s hope Japan fare better in this year’s Rugby World Cup, what with them being in the coveted position of host country.
8. THE ONLY TEAM AT THE TOP
The All Blacks are not shy of referring to themselves as the world’s greatest rugby team and whilst many countries would argue this, one fact remains the same. They have a great track record and have won the Rugby World Cup more than once (albeit quite recently), having won it in 2011 and 2015. We might be slightly biased but we have a feeling England will be joining them on that list this year.
9. A RUGBY WORLD CUP GAME WAS MISSED OVER A SANDWICH
Yes you read that correctly. French rugby player Gaston Vareilles missed his international debut against Scotland in 1910… all because he wanted a sandwich. The team were all travelling to the game by train, stopping at Lyon on route. He nipped to get a sandwich at the station deli counter, and the queue was so long the train left without him. It’s safe to say he was never picked to play for his country again.
10. THE FIRST RUGBY BALLS WERE MADE FROM PIG’S BLADDERS
As interesting as this fact is, it’s not the most pleasant of thoughts! In the town of Rugby, locals Mr and Mrs Solano were commissioned by the Rugby School to create balls for their newly invented game. They stitched leather around pig’s bladders, which led to the balls being the oval shape that is now synonymous with rugby.EXPLORE MORE RUGBY