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World Rugby 1871 - 1888


26 January – The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is founded at the Pall Mall Restaurant, No.1 Cockspur Street, London near Trafalgar Square.

21 clubs are present: Blackheath, Richmond, Ravenscourt Park, West Kent, Marlborough Nomads, Wimbledon Hornets, Gipsies, Civil Service, Law Club, Wellington College, Guy’s Hospital, Flamingoes, Clapham Rovers, Harlequins, King’s College, St Paul’s School, Queen’s House, Lausanne, Addison, Mohicans, Belsize Park.

Algernon Rutter (Richmond) is elected president. A committee is selected to produce a definitive national set of rugby football laws.

27 March – First ever international fixture. Scotland (Scottish members of the RFU) defeat England (English members of the RFU) by 1 goal & 1 try to 1 try at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh. The match is played by teams of 20-a-side and the game lasts for 50 minutes each way.


First match between Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Oxford win by 1 goal to nil. This fixture will become known as the ‘Varsity’ match.


Scottish Rugby Football Union founded.


Two rugby unions formed in Ireland. The Irish Football Union represents players from Munster, Leinster and Connaught. The Northern Football Union of Ireland represents players from Ulster. They agree to select a number of players each for Ireland’s international fixtures.


15 February – Ireland’s first international fixture, played against England at the Oval, London. England win by 1 goal, 1 drop goal & 1 try to nil.

13 December – Oxford and Cambridge are the first to reduce their teams from 20 to 15-a-side.

Two clubs, Hamilton and Villagers, are formed in South Africa. Both lay claim to being the oldest clubs in that country.


5 February – England and Ireland meet at The Oval, London to contest the first international match played between teams of 15-a-side. England wins by 2 goals & 2 tries to nil.


RFU is offered a silver cup from the disbanded Calcutta Club of India as a trophy for a knockout club competition. Soccer’s FA Cup is proving very popular and they envisage a rugby equivalent. The RFU refuses to accept it for this purpose (they believe ‘competitiveness’ runs against the amateur ethos) but does accept it for use in fixtures against Scotland.


The two Irish unions combine to form the Irish Rugby Football Union.

10 March – First Calcutta Cup match ends in a draw.


28 February – England become the first winners of the Calcutta Cup when they defeat Scotland by 2 goals & 3 tries to 1 goal.


19 February – Wales’ first international fixture is played, against England. The match is played three weeks before the formation of the Welsh Rugby Union. The team is organised by Richard Mullock, who will become the first honorary secretary and treasurer of the WRU. The match is played at Richardson’s Field, Blackheath and England win by 7 goals, 1 drop goal & 6 tries to nil.

Welsh Rugby Union founded.


First overseas tour, when New South Wales travel to New Zealand. Even though the tourists expect to win all of their seven games, they underestimate the strength of the New Zealanders and only win four.


First New Zealand tour, to New South Wales (Australia). The tourists do not play any Tests, but win all their matches.


For the first time, referees are given a whistle and umpires are given sticks (later flags).


The International Rugby Football Board (IRFB) is formed by Scotland, Ireland and Wales. England decline to join as they believe they should have greater representation on the board for having a greater number of clubs. They also refuse to accept that the IRFB should be the recognised lawmaker of the game. The IRFB agrees that the member countries will not play England until the RFU agrees to join.

Points for scoring adopted by IRFB.

The ‘broken time’ issue starts to be discussed in Lancashire, where soccer and cricket players can be recompensed by their clubs for time taken off work to play sport, while rugby players cannot.


A privately financed team of British players organised by two cricket promoters tours New Zealand and Australia. Although there are rumours that the players have been paid expenses for their clothes, Jack Clowes of Halifax is the only player to admit it. He is declared a professional by the RFU and banned from playing rugby.

New Zealand Native team tours Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. On the longest tour ever (it lasts for over a year), they play 107 matches, winning 78, drawing 6 and losing 23.