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Whether in legend or in fact, rugby is said to have originated in 1823 at the Rugby School in England. To this day, a stone marker at the gates of the school commemorates the event when "William Webb Ellis ... with fine disregard for the rules of football (soccer) as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it." Ellis and the rest of the world never looked back.

The craze grew in private schools and universities throughout the British Isles, and in 1871 the first Rugby Union was founded in London. Soon the professional game came about when 22 rugby clubs in northern England called for compensation of lost wages for their players of Saturday matches in 1895. This led to the formation of a Rugby League which introduced a 13-player game with modified rules for professionals.

So from this time forward, there was a separation of the Rugby Union (amateur), and the Rugby League (professional). The rules vary slightly, but both are played on similar fields.

With the advent of professionalism in the Union game and law changes meant to speed up the game and make it more exciting for non-aficionados to watch, the Union game has taken the world by storm. The Rugby World Cup is the third most watched sporting spectacle, after the Olympics and the soccer World Cup.

 

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