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town (1991 pop. 59,039), Warwickshire, central England. An important railroad junction and engineering center, Rugby is the seat of one of England's most esteemed public schools. Rugby School was founded in 1567 under the terms of the will of Laurence Sheriff, a wealthy Rugby-born London merchant. Its present buildings date from the early 19th cent., when Rugby became well known under the headmastership of Thomas ArnoldArnold, Thomas,
1795–1842, English educator, b. Isle of Wight, educated at Winchester school and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He was a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, from 1815 to 1819, was ordained deacon in 1818, and was from 1827 to 1842 headmaster of Rugby
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. His son Matthew ArnoldArnold, Matthew,
1822–88, English poet and critic, son of the educator Dr. Thomas Arnold.

Arnold was educated at Rugby; graduated from Balliol College, Oxford in 1844; and was a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford in 1845.
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 wrote of the school in his poetry, and another Rugbeian, Thomas HughesHughes, Thomas,
1822–96, English author. A lawyer, Hughes eventually became a judge; he was also a Liberal member of Parliament and worked assiduously for social reforms. His novel of school life, Tom Brown's School Days (1857), is a classic.
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, wrote the schoolboy classic Tom Brown's School Days, which deals with life at Rugby. The sport of rugbyrugby,
game that originated (1823), according to tradition, on the playing fields of Rugby, England. It is related to both soccer and American football. The game is said to have started when a Rugby School student named William Webb Ellis playing soccer picked up the ball and
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 originated at the school in 1823. Among the town's buildings is the war-memorial chapel, which commemorates the 682 residents who died in World War I.


game that originated (1823), according to tradition, on the playing fields of Rugby, England. It is related to both soccersoccer,
outdoor ball and goal game, also called association football or simply football. The first recorded game probably was that on a Shrove Tuesday in Derby, England, part of a festival to celebrate a victory over a contingent of Roman troops (A.D. 217).
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 and American footballfootball,
any of a number of games in which two opposing teams attempt to score points by moving an inflated oval or round ball past a goal line or into a goal. Differing greatly in their rules, these include soccer (association football) and rugby, in addition to the games
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. The game is said to have started when a Rugby School student named William Webb Ellis playing soccer picked up the ball and ran downfield with it instead of kicking it. Other English schools and universities adopted the style in the mid-19th cent. In 1871 the English Rugby Union was formed to standardize the game. Rugby was introduced (1875) into the United States, but faded as football developed. In 1895 an argument in England over paying players led to a split between groups of clubs and two forms of the sport have existed since: the professional game (now called Rugby League) with 13 players per team; and the amateur Rugby Union, with 15 players. The rules differ slightly, but the basic idea for both is the same.

The rugby field is roughly 160 yd (146 m) long and 75 yd (69 m) wide, with goal lines 110 yd (101 m) apart and two in-goals (corresponding to football's end zones) 25 yd (23 m) deep. A halfway line divides the field, which is further subdivided by other lines parallel to the goal line. The goal posts have measurements similar to those used in American football, and the ball, although larger and more rounded, is similar to the American football.

Players may kick, carry, or pass (to the sides or to the rear) the ball; though tackling is permitted, blocking is forbidden. Unlike American football, rugby features almost continuous play; after penalties and out-of-bounds plays, however, a scrum (in which the two opposing lines of forwards kick the ball thrown between them) starts play again. Various points are scored for carrying the ball into the opponent's in-goal (a try), conversions (kicking the ball between the goal posts after a try), field goal kicks, and penalty kicks. A rugby match is in halves of 40 min, and may end in a tie.

Sevens is a form of rugby with seven players on each side and halves of 7 min (10 min for a championship or series final), but the field and most other aspects of the game are similar to regular rugby. There are Rugby League and Rugby Union versions of sevens, whose development dates to the 1880s; the Rugby Union version, rugby sevens, has become the more popular form internationally. There are also versions of rugby with nine and ten players on a side.

A Rugby League World Cup was first held in 1954 and a world cup for Rugby Union was established in 1987. Rugby sevens has become popular internationally since the 1970s; a world cup tournament was first held in 1993, and the sport was included in the Olympics in 2016. Outside the British Isles, the sport has been popular in Australia, New Zealand, parts of the South Pacific, South Africa, France, and Romania. Since the late 20th cent., it has gained a measure of popularity in American colleges, initially as a club sport, sometimes played in the spring by football players. Like soccer, there are women's leagues and women's World Cup competitions, and women's rugby sevens is also an Olympic sport.


See R. Williams, Skillful Rugby (1980); K. Quinn, The Encyclopedia of World Rugby (1991).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also Rugby Union football), a team sport played with an oval-shaped ball on a special field with H-shaped goalposts. The point of the game is to ground the ball in the opponent’s ingoal area by passing the ball with the hands (only in a backward direction) or feet (in any direction) or to kick the ball through the opponent’s goalpost. Players may stop an opponent who is carrying the ball by tackling him with the arms or knocking him down with the shoulder. The team that wins is the one that scores the most points in a match, which consists of two periods of 40 minutes each. Four points are scored for grounding the ball, three for kicking the ball through the opponent’s goalposts during play or in penalty or free kicks, and two for a successful conversion kick after grounding. Other games played with an oval-shaped ball and deriving from Rugby are American, Gaelic, and Canadian football, Australian Rules football, and Rugby League football, all of which are played according to rules different from those of Rugby.

Modern Rugby dates to 1823, when it was founded by W. Ellis, a student at Rugby School. The first rules of the game were formulated in 1862, at which time the game was given the name Rugby football. In 1871 the first Rugby union was established in the British Isles, and 1890 saw the formation of the International Board, an international union for the various Rugby clubs of Great Britain. Between 1880 and 1890 Rugby teams were organized in France, Germany, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. International matches have been held since 1888, and Rugby was included in the Olympics in 1900, 1904, 1920, and 1924. In 1934 the International Amateur Rugby Federation (FIRA) was established; by 1974 it had a combined membership of 25 national federations.

Rugby is played on all the continents and in more than 50 countries, including all the European socialist countries. Rugby has achieved its greatest popularity in New Zealand, France, Rumania, Great Britain, and Australia. Matches to decide the winner of the FIRA Cup, the unofficial world champion, have been held for men since 1960 and for juniors since 1968.

In the USSR the first Rugby teams were organized in 1923 by M. S. Kozlov, A. A. Markushevich, A. V. Pravdin, N. Ia. Kolli, and others. Since 1934 matches have been played in a number of cities, and national championships were held in 1936 and 1939. In 1938 matches were played for the USSR Cup, with the Dynamo team from Moscow emerging as champion and cup-holder. During the 1940’s there were only individual, nonchampionship Rugby matches. The growth of the sport since the late 1950’s is due in part to B. M. Egupov, G. G. Mrelashvili, and A. A. Sorokin. Since the early 1960’s championships have been held among sports clubs, and national championships have been held annually since 1966. National champions have included teams from the sports clubs of the Moscow Higher Technical School, the Iu. A. Gagarin Air Force Academy, and Fili. Since 1967 Rugby has been included in the Uniform All-Union Sports Classification. In 1968 the Rugby Federation of the USSR was created, and in 1975 it became a member of FIRA. In 1974 about 10,000 persons played Rugby, including more than 200 masters of sport; among these are the international-class Rugby players B. P. Gavrilov, A. G. Grigor’iants, and I. I. Kiziriia. In 1974, 20 teams took part in the national championships. Between 1961 and 1974, Soviet Rugby players competed in more than 100 international matches.


Sorokin, A. Regbi, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.
Highem, E. S., and W. G. Highem. Regbi na vysokikh skorostiakh. Moscow, 1970. (Translated from English.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, rugby football
1. a form of football played with an oval ball in which the handling and carrying of the ball is permitted
2. Canadian another name for Canadian football See also rugby league rugby union


a town in central England, in E Warwickshire: famous public school, founded in 1567. Pop.: 61 988 (2001)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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