The history of football, which is the origin of rugby, goes back to the ancient Roman game of harpastum and the game of La soule played in Northern France. Their rules were simple and primitive but included rugby-like elements such as passing the ball and scrums. Accordingly, ancient football is known to have been played since Roman times down to the present in places such as England.

Ancient rugby-like games were extremely primitive and without any codified rules governing the number of players or the size and shape of the ball.They were closer to being martial arts than to present-day rugby football. During Stuart times in the 15th century, football was prohibited. On the other hand, the rules of the game changed according to the times.

A game was held between two teams on the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent (a religious season in the Roman Catholic eclesiastical calendar). The rule was that the players went around the town kicking the ball from 11:00 am and the team that held the ball at the closing time of 5:00 pm near the meeting point won the game.

In the early period, rugby games were mainly centered on scrums, and "hacking"—tripping an opponent and kicking his shins—was considered to be a way of showing a player's true masculinity. However, in 1871 hacking was banned by many schools as the tactic was prone to destroy games.

In 1890, the rules of rugby changed dramatically and became close to those used at present. Hacking was prohibited and the number of players on each team decreased to 15. Scrums disappeared and a new rule that tackled players had to release the ball immediately was created, which made the game faster.

The first international game in France was held between Stade Francais of Paris and Ross Park of London. In this match, the French suffered a major defeat. However, the local press of the time praised them highly and reported they had played well enough to win the game. Since this historic match, periodical friendship exchanges have continued between the two countries down to the present day.

British soldiers of Her Majesty's 54th Regiment during the Afghan Wars enjoyed playing rugby during their spare time. Local people who had never seen a rugby game before would watch them with a mixture of astonishment and curiousity. In this way, the British eventually spread rugby football all over the world.

The History of Rugby


Ancient Europe

The ancient Roman game of harpastum and the game of La soule played in Northern France, which are said to be the origin of rugby, have been played in parts of Europe since ancient times.

Period of Northern and Southern Dynasties in China

From as early as 300 B.C., a game called kemari, a type of football played in ancient times, was played in China by people kicking a leather ball into a small hole.

Medieval England

Various games collectively known as 'mob football', which involved moving the ball from a starting point to a specified destination, were played. There was no limit to the number of players who could take part.