Rugby History: A Timeline

From Warwickshire to Rio de Janeiro

FRISCO, TX - MARCH 15: Midfielder David Beckham #23 of the Los Angeles Galaxy moves the ball against FC Dallas during a charity preseason match on March 15, 2008 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco,Texas.
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19th Century: beginnings

1820's and 1830's: a version of rugby created at Rugby School, Warwickshire, England

1843: Rugby School alums form Guy's Hospital Football Club in London

1845: Rugby School students create first written rules

1840's: rugby clubs formed at Harvard, Princeton, and Yale Universities in the United States

1851: a rugby ball is displayed at the World's Fair in London

1854: Dublin University Football Club formed at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

1858: first non-academic club Blackheath Rugby Club formed in London

1858: first match played in Scotland between the Royal High School and Merchiston in Edinburgh

1862: Yale University bans rugby for being too violent

1863: first rugby club in New Zealand (Christchurch Football Club) established

1864: first rugby club in Australia (Sydney University Club) established

1864: first rugby match in Canada played in Montreal by British soldiers

1869: first rugby match played between two Irish clubs in Dublin

1870: first rugby match in New Zealand played between Nelson College and Nelson Football Club

1871: first international match played between England and Scotland in Edinburgh

1871: Rugby Football Union founded in London with 21 member clubs

1872: first rugby match in France played by Englishmen in Le Havre

1873: Scotland Rugby Football Union formed in 1873 with 8 member clubs

1875: first international match between England and Ireland

1875: first rugby club in Wales (South Wales Football Club) formed

1876: first rugby club in South Africa (Cape Town Villagers) established

1878: first exclusively French rugby club (Paris Football Club) formed

1879: Ireland Rugby Football Union formed

1880: intra-mural match between British and Uruguayan members of Montevideo Cricket Club played in Montevideo, Uruguay

1881: first international match between Wales and England

1881: Wales Rugby Union formed with 11 member clubs

1883: first Home Nations tournament played between England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales

1883: first primarily Boer rugby club (Stellenbosch) established in South Africa

1883: first rugby sevens match played in Melrose, Scotland

1884: first rugby match in Fiji, Viti Levu

1886: first rugby match in Argentina between two primarily Argentine clubs (Buenos Aires Football Club and Rosario Athletic Club) in Buenos Aires

1886: Russia bans rugby for being brutal and liable to incite riots

1886: Scotland, Ireland, and Wales form the International Rugby Board

1889: South African Rugby Board formed

1890: French team defeats a team of internationals at Bois de Boulogne

1890: England joins the International Rugby Board

1890: Barbarians FC founded in London

1891: British Isles team tours South Africa

1892: New Zealand Rugby Football Union founded

1893: first New Zealand national team tour of Australia

20th century: modernity rampant

1895: 20 clubs from the North of England resign from the RFU to form their own union, eventually to be referred to as the Rugby Football League, creating a new type of rugby with slightly different rules but that allowed players to be paid to play

1895: Rhodesia Rugby Football Union founded

1899: first all-Japanese rugby match in Japan at Keio University, Tokyo

1899: Argentina Rugby Football Union founded

1899: first British Isles tour to Australia

1900: German Rugby Football Union founded

1900: France wins rugby gold medal in summer Olympics in Paris

1903: first international match between Australia and New Zealand

1905-6: New Zealand team tours the United Kingdom, France, and North America, cementing their name and image as the All Blacks

1906: South African team tours United Kingdom and France; first use of the name Springboks for national team

1908: Australia wins rugby gold medal in summer Olympics in London

1908: Australian team tours the United Kingdom, Ireland, and North America

1910: Argentina plays first international match against British Isles

1910: France added to Home Nations tournament, now known as Five Nations

1912: United States plays first international match against Australia

1913: Fiji Rugby Football Union founded

1919: French Rugby Federation founded

1920: United States wins rugby gold medal in summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium

1921: Springboks tour New Zealand and Australia

1921: first rugby sevens match played outside of Scotland (North Shields, England)

1923: Tonga Rugby Football Union founded

1923: Samoa Rugby Football Union founded

1923: Kenya Rugby Football Union founded

1924: United States wins rugby gold medal in summer Olympics in Paris

1924: British Isles makes first tour as the British and Irish Lions to South Africa

1924: Samoa and Fiji play first Pacific Islands international match

1924: Tonga plays first international match against Fiji

1924-5: All Blacks play and win 32 matches in a tour of the United Kingdom, France, and Canada

1926: Japan Rugby Football Union founded

1928: Italian Rugby Federation founded

1929: Italy plays first international match against Spain

Mid-to-late 20th century: Don't Mention the War

1932: France expelled from Five Nations, now renamed Home Nations tournament

1932: Canada and Japan play their first international match against each other

1934: France forms the Federation Internationale de Rugby Amateur (FIRA) with IRB non-member nations Italy, Romania, Netherlands, Catalonia, Portugal, Czechoslovakia, and Sweden

1936: Rugby Union of the Soviet Union founded (now Rugby Union of Russia)

1946: France rejoins Home Nations tournament, now re-renamed Five Nations

1949: Australian Rugby Football Union formed, joins International Rugby Board

1949: New Zealand joins International Rugby Board

1953: Hong Kong Rugby Union founded

1965: Rugby Canada founded

1975: United States of America Rugby Football Union founded

1976: first Hong Kong Sevens tournament held

1977: Gleneagles Agreement effectively bans South Africa from international competition

1981: rugby added to Maccabiah Games, making it the only international rugby competition in which South Africa is permitted to compete

1982: Pacific Tri-Nations tournament between Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga established

1987: Australia and New Zealand co-host first Rugby World Cup, which the All Blacks win

1991: England hosts the second Rugby World Cup, which Australia wins

Late 20th and early 21st centuries: post-apartheid and professionalism

1992: South Africa re-admitted to international play

1995: all-white South Africa Rugby Board and non-racial South African Rugby Union merge to form South Africa Rugby Football Union

1995: South Africa hosts and wins the third Rugby World Cup

1995: rugby union professionalized by International Rugby Board; elite competitions created in England, the Home Nations, France, and the Southern Hemisphere

1996: first Tri-Nations tournament held between Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa

1999: FIRA joins International Rugby Board

1999: Wales hosts the fourth Rugby World Cup, which Australia wins

2000: Italy added to Five Nations tournament, now renamed Six Nations

2002: Pacific Islands Rugby Alliance formed with Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Niue, and the Cook islands as members

2003: Australia hosts the fifth Rugby World Cup, which England wins

2007: France hosts the sixth Rugby World Cup, which South Africa wins

2009: Olympic Committee votes to return rugby (as sevens) to summer Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

2011: New Zealand hosts and wins the seventh Rugby World Cup

2012: Argentina added to tournament formerly known as Tri-Nations; now known as The Rugby Championship