The sport of rugby has its origins from football, the popular game that dates to the early 1100s with its long traditions and where it was first played in England. Even before rugby football was codified, games very similar to rugby were played in many nations outside of England. These games had scrummaging formations and players could handle the ball. Some of these examples include Ki-o-rahi (New Zealand), marn grook (Australia), kemari (Japan), lelo burti (Georgia), and Calcio Fiorentino (Italy).  

Rugby School, based in Rugby in the county Warwickshire, is a boarding school for boys aged 13-18. The school has special significance as a story had surfaced that a certain William Web-Ellis, a boy who apparently had a disregard for the rules of football, had picked the ball up and ran with it and that he was also responsible for writing the rules of rugby. There are many sports historians who doubt the authenticity of this story as at the time that Web-Ellis was at school, football had no formal rules yet. Rugby School did have a tradition where the rules of a sport were written by the pupils and not the masters. The rules were often decided before the start of a game. Despite the question marks over who can be credited with the formation of rugby, Web-Ellis was honoured with a plaque at Rugby School, including having his name associated with the most prestigious trophy in rugby union today.  

It was nearer to the later stages of the 19th century when the rules for rugby football were first formulated and codified. The Football Association (FA), the governing body for football in England, was formed in 1863. A significant event occurred in 1871 when the Blackheath Football Club decided to leave the FA and form the Rugby Football Union (RFU). The original code was simply known as rugby football. Over twenty years later, in 1895, a further split occurred with the formation of a separate code referred to as rugby league or simply league. As a result, the Northern Rugby Football Union (NRFU) was formed. The reason for the split came from disagreements over players being paid to play. The RFU wanted to enforce amateurism on the sport, while many players from northern England were low-earners and could not afford to take time off to play without being compensated.  

Rugby Union spread worldwide from through the expansion of the British Empire. The first international was played at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh in 1871 between Scotland and England. Today World Rugby is the highest authority and international governing body for the sport of rugby union. First established in 1886 as the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB), it later was renamed as the International Rugby Board (IRB) in 1998 and again in 2014 as World Rugby. The original members to form IRFB were Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Apart from continual growth, especially in Africa, Asia and South America, the sport made major progress when the IOC included rugby sevens as an Olympic Sport. It made its debut at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

World Rugby

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