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World Rugby 1889 - 1949

1889

South African RFU founded.

1890

England becomes a member of the IRFB.

1891

South Africa’s first international fixture. They lose 4-0 against the touring British Isles team in Port Elizabeth. This was also the first time a British team had toured South Africa. Under the captaincy of W E Maclagen, they win all 20 matches on the tour, conceding only one point. They remain the only British Isles side to win every game on a tour.

1892

New Zealand Rugby Football Union founded.

1893

The issue of ‘broken time’ payments reaches boiling point at the RFU’s AGM. Hornby – a true amateur – argues for broken time payments because “the so-called amateur sides ask for large guarantees, publish no balance sheets and distribute expenses far larger than would be paid to a professional player.”

Yorkshire complain that, although there are more rugby clubs in the north of England than in the south, more southerners than northerners populate the RFU Committee. Also, committee meetings are held in London at times that are not suitable for northern folk to attend.

1895

29 August – At a meeting at the George Hotel, Huddersfield, 20 clubs from Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire decided to resign from the RFU and form the Northern Rugby Football Union. (From 1922 it will be known as Rugby League.)

Zimbabwe RFU founded (known as Rhodesia RFU until 1980).

1899

Australia’s first international fixture. They defeat the touring British Isles side 13-3 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The first Irish team to tour overseas. They tour Canada playing 11 games. They win 10 and lose one but do not play any Tests.

Argentinian Rugby Union founded.

1900

Rugby is played at the Olympic Games for the first time. Only two countries enter and France defeats Germany 25-16.

1903

New Zealand’s first international fixture. They defeat Australia 22-3 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

1905

The New Zealand ‘Originals’ tour the British Isles, France and America playing 35 matches. They win 34 games, losing only one – to Wales.

Australia’s first tour, to New Zealand. Even with the strongest New Zealand players touring on the other side of the world, the Australians win only three of the seven games they play.

1906

South Africa tour the British Isles and France for the first time. They play 28 games, winning 25, drawing one and losing two.

1908

Australia tour the British Isles for the first time. They play 31 matches, winning 25, drawing one and losing five. The Australian team receives three shillings a day for out-of-pocket expenses and Scotland refuse to play them, claiming that payment makes them professionals. Scotland’s fears are justified because when the Australians return home, 13 players immediately join up to the newly formed Rugby League.

Rugby is played at Olympic Games for the second time but again only two countries enter. Australia defeat Great Britain 32-3.

1910

The Five Nations Championship begins. This is the first year that England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and France play each other in the same season. The Championship is not formally recognised for many years to come, but England are the first champions after winning three and drawing one of their four games.

A British Isles side visits Argentina for the first time. They play six games and win them all.

1913

Fijian Rugby Union founded.

1914

4 August – Nine days after the outbreak of World War I, a RFU circular advises all players to join the armed forces. One hundred and thirty-three international players from the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France and Romania will die during the conflict.

1919

French Rugby Federation founded.

1920

Rugby is played at the Olympics for the third time and still only two countries enter. This time USA defeat France 8-0.

1923

Spanish Rugby Federation founded.

Tongan RFU founded.

1924

USA rugby team tours Britain to warm up for the Olympic Games.

Rugby is played at the Olympics for the fourth and last time. Three countries enter and the USA win the gold by defeating the other two nations – Romania and France. The International Olympic Committee decides to discontinue events such as rugby, which have attracted minimal entrants.

Samoan RFU founded.

1925

The New Zealand ‘Invincibles’ tour the British Isles, France and Canada. They play 32 matches and win them all.

1926

Japanese RFU founded.

1928

Italian Rugby Federation founded.

1929

Italy’s first international fixture. They lose 9-0 to Spain.

1930

All future matches are to be played under the laws of the IRFB.

1931

Ten French Clubs attempt to break away from the French Federation to form their own union. The Home Unions, concerned about alleged illegal payments to players and foul play in the French game, agree to suspend relations with the French Federation until they can prove that they have control over the game in their country.

Romanian Rugby Federation founded.

1934

Federation Internationale de Rugby Amateur (FIRA) is formed at the instigation of the French. It is designed to organise the game outside the major rugby playing nations. The founding members are France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, Romania, Catalonia (Spain), Holland and Czechoslovakia.

1939

France is invited to rejoin the Five Nations Championship for the following season, but war is declared and international rugby is suspended. Eight-eight international players from the British Isles, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, France, Germany and Romania are killed during the conflict.

The ban on Rugby League players is temporarily lifted by the RFU. Many play in the eight Services Internationals played between England and Scotland during the war years.

1947

France plays its first Five Nations games since 1931 as the championship restarts after the war.

1949

Australia, New Zealand and South Africa become members of the IRFB.

Australian Rugby Union founded.

First France tour, to Argentina. The tourists win all nine games, including the two Test matches.