No doubt that one of the most popular games around the world is rugby. It is considered one of the heaviest hitting team contact sports being played in present day history. At present, the mention of rugby puts to mind physically fit and strong men and women running up and down the field giving and taking hits just to score points. It would really be interesting to find out the history of the game and how it all started.
Widely believed history of rugby
As you dig deeper into the history of the sport, you would often come across the name of William Webb Ellis. As the story goes, he was a student in 1823 who did not really have a high regard with how football was being played. This prompted him to take the ball into his hands and run with it. A lot of historians would be quick to point out that it was how rugby started.
Romans and Harpastum
There is also evidence pointing to how the Romans and Greeks had a big hand in the evolution of the sport. The game can be traced to what historians call “Harpastum” which is a Roman sport much similar to rugby. Though the earlier versions allowed the 27 players on each team to use their hands and feet during the course of the game.
The objective was to score goals by throwing the ball over pre-determined goals on each end of the playing field which was usually a sand pit. The officiating of the game included 8 people consisting of a field master, a main referee, as well as linesmen. The game lasted for 50 minutes and the winning team would be determined as the one with the highest score.
Greeks and Phaininda
It is interesting to note that history also points out how the Romans might have actually just copied a similar version of the game from the Greeks when they conquered them in 146BC. It is widely believed that their Harpastum was actually an adaptation of a game they came across while interacting with the Greeks.
The Greeks had a game called Phaininda which when translated literally means “to pretend”. One facet of the game was to have an elaborate plan of trying to deceive the opposing team with a well-planned strategy of fake passes to put them off. This is similar to how rugby is played now with the way the passing is done.
One of the more barbaric versions of rugby was played between the 5th all the way to the 16th century. It was also referred to as folk or even shrove tide football. One big difference with this one was that the teams consisted of whole towns rather than a group of players. The goal line was also different as it represented a specific part in each of their towns making the playing field far and wide.
This type of game was also the perfect place for feuds to be settled. There were cases that a game took place within the game itself where feuding parties were allowed to settle their differences resulting to private duels. This resulted in deaths of participating players which forced some officials to outlaw the game later on.