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World Rugby 1820 - 1870

1820s & 1830s

Public schools (including Harrow, Winchester, Eton and Rugby) play their own versions of ‘football’. Boys from Rugby School gradually develop and shape the game that will become famous worldwide.


‘Running in’ (try scoring in modern terminology) becomes an accepted feature of the Rugby School game due to the prowess of pupil Jem Mackie.


Albert Pell, former Rugby School pupil, organises ‘football’ matches at Cambridge University. Everyone plays by their own school rules (including Rugby School football rules), so a compromise set of rules are produced. This attempt to form one set of football rules would eventually lead to the publication of the Cambridge Rules (see 1863).


Running with the ball is formally adopted and accepted by the boys of Rugby School for the first time.


Three boys at Rugby School publish their first set of written rules. These are the first written rules for any form of ‘football’ and are one of the reasons why Rugby’s game flourished while others died out.


Trinity College, Dublin is the first rugby club to be formed in Ireland.


Edinburgh Academicals is the first rugby club to be formed in Scotland.


Montevideo Cricket Club, Uruguay, is the first club outside Europe to play rugby.


The Cambridge Rules are published. These rules are an amalgamation of the various forms of ‘football’ – including elements of Rugby School football.

26 October – The Football Association (FA) is formed at the Freemason’s Tavern, Great Queen Street, Lincoln Inn Fields, London.

“The original object of the Association was to frame a code of laws that would embrace the best and most acceptable points of all the various methods of play under the one heading of ‘football’.” (‘The History of the Football Association’, by Geoffrey Green, 1953).

Clubs attending the first meeting include Blackheath and Blackheath Proprietary School.

10 November – second FA meeting.

Although some public schools reply to the letters sent out by the FA offering membership, Rugby School does not. Rules are discussed. At this point it is still the intention to merge the Rugby School rules into the FA’s national football rules with everyone else’s.

14 November – fourth FA meeting.

The proposed rules for ‘football’ are read out. F W Campbell (Blackheath) asserts that they were “worthy of consideration”. Handling the ball is allowed but other aspects of Rugby School rules, such as hacking (kicking) and hacking over (tripping), are forbidden.

1 December – fifth FA meeting.

Campbell believes that hacking is an essential element of the ‘football’ game that his club (Blackheath) wants to play. To eliminate hacking would “do away with all the courage and pluck from the game, and I will be bound over to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who would beat you with a week’s practice.”

8 December – sixth FA meeting.

Campbell informs the meeting that the laws that the FA wants to adopt would destroy the game and all interest in it. He then removes Blackheath from membership of the FA.

Other rugby clubs follow this lead and do not join the Football Association. Without the participation of these clubs, many of the Rugby School football influences are dropped from the FA’s laws and the new football game (soccer) will become an almost exclusively dribbling sport.


Sydney University is the first rugby club to be formed in Australia.


'Alcocks Football Annual’ lists approximately 75 clubs playing Rugby School football rules. These different clubs have different interpretations of the laws as played at Rugby School.

Nelson club of New Zealand starts to play Rugby School rules, the first club in that country to do so.

November - An anonymous surgeon writes to ‘The Times’ complaining that Rugby football is dangerous. The need is felt to form a body to regulate the laws.