Ever since William Webb Ellis picked up the soccer ball and ran with it all the way back in 1823, the beautiful game of rugby has gifted players and fans around the world with its grace. In its history, rugby has touched the lives of many, and has created some incredible moments all across the globe.
Here are five facts about rugby that may serve to pique your interest:
How It All Began
As the legend goes, in 1823 a boy by the name of William Webb Ellis was playing in a soccer game for his school, Rugby School, when the ball was kicked and landed in his arms. The boy then ran down the field with the ball in his hands, creating a new sport right then and there that would come to be known as "Rugby Football". His name is forever etched into rugby folklore, and every four years the William Webb Ellis Trophy is handed to the team that wins the Rugby World Cup.
The All Blacks & Springboks Have Won The Most World Cups
Though rugby has been around since the 1800's, the World Cup didn't begin until 1987, when the first one was held in New Zealand.
The New Zealand All Blacks won the inaugural competition on home soil, but didn't win another until 2011, which was also in their home country. They added one more to the trophy cabinet in 2015 at the World Cup in England, giving them a total of three, tied for the most of any country.
The other country with three, South Africa Springboks, are the current World champions after winning the 2019 World Cup in Japan. The Springboks also reached World Cup glory at the 1995 World Cup on their home soil and in the 2007 World Cup in France.
It Wasn't Officially Professional Until 1995
Believe it or not, rugby has only been professional for 25 years! Until the 1995 World Cup, rugby was recognized by IRB (the official governing body) as an amateur sport. Though players made stipends and collected small amounts of money before then, open and unrestricted payments were not permitted anywhere. The professionalism of the sport ignited the inception of trans-national competitions like the Heineken Cup and Super Rugby.
England Is The Only Northern Team To Win The World Cup
England is still the one and only team north of the equator to win a Rugby World Cup, having won the title in 2003 in Australia following Jonny Wilkinson's legendary kick to win it.
Australia has won the other two World Cups, in 1991 and 1999, while northern hemisphere sides France (1987, 1999, 2011) and England (1991, 2007, 2019) have both lost in the final three times.
The All Blacks Have a Winning Record Against Everyone
Few teams in any sport have been as impressive as the All Blacks throughout history. Since their first game in 1903, the All Blacks have won 77% of their games. What's more impressive is that they have a winning record against all 22 teams they have played.
The two sides that have given the All Blacks the most trouble all time are fellow Tri-Nations foes Australia and South Africa. The All Blacks own a 115-44-7 record against Australia and a 59-36-4 record against South Africa.