Every sport has its myths, legends and seemingly impossible facts and the glorious sport of rugby is no different.

Even its origins are not entirely corroborated, although the legend goes that the sport started when young William Webb Ellis picked up a soccer ball during a match and ran with it to score a goal. Being a pupil of the Rugby School in England, the sport took its name from its place of origin and developed from there. That was back in 1823… there have been many other rugby-related incidents since then so here are a few random rugby facts to increase your love of the sport.

10 Awesome Rugby Facts

1. Origins of the Calcutta Cup

This cup is contested by Scotland and England during the Six Nations in memory of the first-ever game played on Christmas Day in Calcutta in 1872 between the two teams (Scotland won). This led to the establishment of the Calcutta Football Club, however, dwindling numbers forced the closure of the club. The remaining members withdrew the club’s funds – in silver rupees – melted them down and made the cup which they donated to the Rugby Football Union in 1878 provided it is competed for annually.

Calcutta cup

The historic Calcutta Cup

2. Oval rugby ball

The first ever rugby balls were made by Richard Lindon who fashioned them out of handstitched leather casing and pigs’ bladders. The oval shape comes from the natural shape taken by a pig’s bladder.

A Rugby ball and a pigs bladder – uncanny resemblance

3. Top scorers

New Zealand’s Dan Carter and England’s Jonny Wilkinson are the two highest test scorers of all time. They are both left-footed, have both been a part of the team which won a World Cup final, and both kicked the last goals of World Cup finals with their right feet.

Rugby top goalscorers

Dan and Jonny – left footed heroes

4. Whistle blower

The whistle used for the opening match at every World Cup is the same one that was used by Welsh referee, Gil Evans, for an England versus New Zealand match in 1905. The whistle is engraved detailing the event and oversaw a 15-0 victory for ‘The Originals’ before later being presented to another Welsh referee, Albert Freethy, who used it for the 1924 Olympic Games final in Paris that saw the United States beat France.

rugby world cup whistle

The Gil Evans Whistle 

5. Olympic heroes

The USA team remains the reigning Olympic rugby champions because they were the last team to win in 1924, after which the sport was discontinued at an Olympic level. It has however been reintroduced in the sevens format.

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England Rugby Team 1924

The last Olympic Rugby winning team – ever

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6. Give him a try

Originally a try had no value but it did allow the attacking team to try for a kick at the goal. If successful, a try was then converted into a goal.

7. Drop goal in extra time

Two World Cup finals have gone to extra-time – the 1995 match between South Africa and New Zealand as well as the 2003 match between England and Australia, with both games settled by drop goals.

Joel Stransky kicking drop goal

Joel Stransky kicking the famous drop goal to win the Rugby World Cup 1995

8. Try-less World Cups

The last four try-less matches in World Cups have all finished 15-6. These are Wales v Australia in 2015, Scotland v Georgia and Ireland v Australia in 2011, and the South Africa v England final in 2007.

9. No tries for Spain

Spain is the only national side to score no tries in a Rugby World Cup – this was during the 1999 tournament.

10. Reverend Webb Ellis

The man so revered for starting the sport of rugby went on to become an Anglican clergyman and eventually died in the South of France in 1872. His grave was re-discovered by Ross McWhirter in 1958 at le cimetière du vieux château in Alpes Maritimes and has since been renovated by the French Rugby Federation.

William Webb Ellis

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