The sport of rugby began at Rugby School in Warwickshire in the 18th century. There was no limit to the number of players on each side and very few rules. In 1823, it is said that a Lancashire lad named William Webb Ellis (1806-72), who later became a clergyman, decided to run whilst holding the ball, which had not been done before. Other boys’ schools had their own forms of football, but it was Rugby’s version, with Webb Ellis’s variation, which caught on.
The winners of the Rugby World Cup tournament, held every four years, receive the William Webb Ellis Cup.
Considering its competitive school origins, it is not surprising that two separate codes or set of rules of rugby emerged, known as Rugby League and Rugby Union respectively. It is mainly a numbers-based difference, e.g. League has 13 players per team, whereas Union has 15.
Watch out for Henry C.A.D. Windsor (a.k.a. ‘Prince Harry’) and England rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson in this dramatisation of the foundation of the sport of rugby:-
(Top image: Pierre Selim at Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)