Rugby is a sport played by 2 teams of 15 players each, in which a ball is moved with the hands and feet. First played at Rugby School in England in 1823, the game flouted the rules of the day governing football by allowing players to take the ball in their hands. The oval ball was adopted in 1851. The first club, Guy’s Hospital, was formed in 1843, and it was only in 1871 that the first rules were codified, under the name of Rugby Football. In 1877, the number of players went from 20 to 15, and in 1886, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales founded the International Rugby Football Board (IRFB), which established the rules of play. England became a member four years later. In 1895, a split led to the creation of the Northern Rugby Football Union and 13-a-side teams. The game became an Olympic sport in 1900, at the Paris Games, and remained so until 1924. In 1910, The first Tournament of Five Nations brought together the four IRFB member teams and France, which only joined the federation in 1978. The first World Cup was organized jointly by Australia and New Zealand in 1987 and women had their first own World Cup in 1991. In 1995, high level rugby players acquired professional status.
A History of Rugby in Canada
The first recorded game of rugby in Canada took place among artillery men in Montreal in 1864 and that same year, Trinity College, Toronto, published the first set of rules for the game of rugby in Canada. In 1868, the Montreal Football Club formed the first club and in 1874, the first North American international game took place in Cambridge, Massachusetts between McGill and Harvard Universities. Later that year, Ontario and Quebec played the first inter-provincial match.
In the early 1900s, rugby competition generally took place between the closest geographical neighbour and for British Columbia the main competition came from the West Coast of the United States. British Columbia hosted the first visiting international side, the New Zealand All Blacks in 1906, but before that in1902 a Canadian representative team toured the British Isles. (W 8, L 13, T 2).
Across Canada, rugby surged in popularity prior to WW1, but that soon dissipated with the advent of war, and from 1914 to 1919 only British Columbia and Nova Scotia enjoyed sufficient numbers to arrange matches on a semi-regular basis. Elsewhere, rugby disbanded in favour of a more concerted war effort although some games did occur to help boost morale amongst servicemen and civilians.
Rugby in Canada continually battles against a harsh climate, an immense geographical size, and a relatively low population and faces competition from gridiron football – a game developed from rugby – ice hockey, basketball, soccer and other recreational sports. Since 1945, however, provincial Rugby Unions have experienced marked growth and the Rugby Union of Canada, which dissolved because of World War II, reformed in 1965. In 1991 Canada became an International Rugby Board member and today, rugby in Canada involves 100,000 people, with 220 men's clubs, 80 Women's clubs, and nearly 900 high school teams.