Conversion Chronicles: 13 Weird And Fun Facts About Rugby

The numbers are huge: eight million players within 132 countries! A sport with a long history and a love for roughness and toughness, how could it not be one of the most popular sports? We’ve jotted down some weird and fun facts about rugby that are sure to keep you entertained until the next championship.

Bizarre origins

William Webb Ellis

Rugby’s origin story involves a student named William Webb Ellis allegedly picking up the ball and running during a soccer match. And boom rugby was born, if we are to believe this story. At the time soccer as we know it now looked quite different, with each school – since this is where it was played most – having its own rules so a guy picking the ball and running would be such a farfetched scenario.

Odd-shaped balls

rugby ball

The rugby ball’s unique shape has been compared to an egg so many times we’ve lost count. Originally made from pig bladder, they were rather plum-shaped since this was the shape they naturally got.

Calcutta Cup Calamity

Calcutta Cup

The Calcutta Cup, played between England and Scotland, has a unique tale. Apparently the trophy was made from melted-down silver Indian rupees, exactly the amount left after closing the Calcutta Football (Rugby) Club.

Underwater rugby

underwater rugby

Believe it or not, there’s a sport called underwater rugby. Played in a pool with a weighted ball, this bizarre version of rugby requires players to navigate and score goals underwater. It’s tricky and fun, go check it out! Even if it happens underwater, you can still get hurt and a lot of your body parts will have to suffer after such a game. Did you know the human body has a lot of funny body part names?

Rugby record for the longest drop kick

Gerald Hamilton ‘Gerry’ Brand

In 1932, South African rugby player Gerald Hamilton ‘Gerry’ Brand set a record for the longest recorded drop-kick. Stats show the ball traveled an incredible 67 meters (220 feet).

The same whistle opened all Rugby World Cups

Gil Evans' whistle

Well, this is definitely a weird one. It seems every referee used the same whistle when he opened every Rugby World Cup. The whistle belonged to Gil Evans who first used it to start the first encounter between England and New Zealand at Crystal Palace in 1905.

Officially a sport only in 1995

rugby match

Up until then it was considered merely an amateur pastime which is insane if you consider the huge crowds it now gathers in stadiums around the world.

The singing all black

the Haka

New Zealand’s All Blacks are known for performing the Haka, their way of showing the tribe’s strength and unity.

Rugby didn’t start as rugby

Harpastum

Some historical writings claim the game we now call rugby was first played, as a variation, indeed, in Roman times, over 2,000 years ago. It was called Harpastum, the word for “seize”, and it seems it was quite popular.

Lethal bladders

Richard Lindon

Since you had to blow up the bladders to shape them up, this meant you had to get in contact with a lot of bladders, some of them having various diseases. Richard Lindon was the man in charge of crafting rugby balls for Rugby School, Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin Universities during the 19th century. His wife used to lend a hand from time to time and unfortunately succumbed to a very unfortunate death after breathing the air from several bladders coming from ill pigs.

The start of national anthems

rugby field

On 16th November 1905 New Zealand played Wales at Cardiff Arms Park, their very first encounter. Just before the match was about to begin, New Zealand performed their famous Haka, which quickly prompted Wales to sing their national anthem, “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.” As expected, the crowd quickly picked up the signal and started singing. And voila, a new sports tradition is born.

Not all rugby is played the same

Rugby formation
Credit @harrodsport.com

You have the union version, with 7, 10, or 15 players on each team. And then there’s the league version, with 7, 9, or 13 players.

69 or the most tries scored ever

Daisuke Ohata

This is huge! Daisuke Ohata holds the world record for most international tries, 69 big ones. Between 1996 and 2006 he set the bar insanely high, with his record expected to stay in place for many years to come.

Why is rugby a fun sport?

Rugby is a fun sport because of the interaction between team members, the training sessions that can form strong relationships. 

Is rugby good for boys?

Yes. Rugby is good for boys. It helps develop discipline, determination, concentration, and tolerance. This sport will help young boys be respectful of everyone around them, to work hard, to trust their teammates. All the qualities will make them better adults. 

Is rugby a mental sport?

Yes, rugby is a mental sport. Players need to be able to think ahead and choose the best action quickly while under pressure. Rugby demands both physical and mental acuity.

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