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No matter where you were in the world in the last month, it is pretty hard for you to miss out on all the rugby commotion that’s been the highlight of the sporting world. And, if you were in either New Zealand or Australia, there is absolutely no way you could have not noticed it at all!

Rugby – it’s a big deal, especially on this side of the planet. For many Kiwis and Aussies, at home and abroad, rugby is a way of life. They live and breathe it. And when there is a world tournament for it, like the one that had just passed this September to October, you can bet your bottom dollar that those who back it, are very passionate about it.

Therefore, this seems to be the perfect opportunity to look back and blog about this sporting way of life that affects so many of us. Just recapping on the record setting Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2015 match just a couple of weeks ago, in case you were completely out of it in the last month – New Zealand and Australia came head to head in this year’s Rugby World Cup finals, in what was a historical match for New Zealand, and undoubtedly the Rugby World Cup world.

New Zealand beat the Australians, 37 to 17 points, to become the first nation to have won 3 tournaments, and the only nation to have won it back to back – 1987, 2011 (home grounds), and 2015. Australia isn’t trucking too far behind, sitting at 2 tournament wins – 1991, and 1999. Talk about our long running Trans-Tasman rivalry – this is a perfect example of why us Kiwis and the Aussies are always so competitive with each other.

Lets take it back to the beginning a bit here – who even invent rugby? When was it invented? Why is it so important to Kiwis and Australians? Hopefully, I can do the great sport some justice by attempting to answer these questions in this week’s blog!

The Origins of Rugby

The ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have played many forms of ball games from as early ad the 3rd Century. Football originated from these, and the rugby football we know today was invented in a town called Rugby, in Warwickshire, England, by a little known (at the time) boy called William Webb Ellis, whilst breaking the existing rules of a football match in 1823 at Rugby School. With disregard to the existing rules of the game, William Webb Ellis took the ball in his arms and ran with it. This was the humble beginnings of rugby as we know it, so much so that the RWC trophy was named after its accidental inventor – the Webb Ellis Cup.

Rugby School was from then on known as the birthplace of modern rugby football. Since 1823, the game of rugby has been split into various codes that govern as the rules of the individual game.

Union vs League

In 1895 rugby football split into two camps – Rugby Union and Rugby League. RWC is rugby union and plays by the original rugby football rules. Nowadays, the term “rugby” can cause confusion when referring to either league or union, especially for those who are not so knowledgeable in the history of the sport. In New Zealand and Australia, rugby league is usually known as “league” or “football”, and “union” is simply referred to as “rugby”.

Although both union and league share the basic rules of the game, and use a very similar shaped ball, there are some distinct differences between the two. Union is 15 players a side and is governed by a more complex set of rules, making for more tactical play and a lot can happen in a game of union. League is 13 a side and is known to be a simpler version of union, making the game quicker and easier for spectators to understand. The different rules of the games become even more apparent particularly when it comes to determining the possession of the ball.

The Rugby “Greats”

England is credited for inventing the modern rugby football game. But credit needs to go to both Australia and New Zealand for the RWC tournament. The first RWC was held in 1987, hosted by Australia and New Zealand, who were the two countries who pushed for the tournament to be approved in the first place. The RWC is played every 4th year, and there have been seven played to date. Since the first RWC in 87, only four countries have ever won the cup – New Zealand (3 wins), Australia (2 wins), South Africa (2 wins), and England (1 win).

The New Zealand All Blacks has been rated one of the best teams in the world, since it was formed in 1870, although they were not known as the “All Blacks” until 1890’s. Their popularity and reputation exceed them, gaining them an almost cult-like following from all over the world. Based on Facebook following alone, The All Blacks page has over 3.4 million fans, while the Wallabies have over 620,000 fans.

So you can see that both New Zealand and Australia are true rugby greats of the world. And at the end of the day, whether you are studying, living, or working in New Zealand or Australia, you can be assured that there is no better place to be exposed to the best of rugby then in these two countries.

Have a great week!


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