1845 Rules of Rugby

With the Rugby Union Autumn Internationals looming, we thought we'd look back at the 1845 Rules of Rugby used at Rugby School - "The original Rules of Rugby" as they are known.

The game was clearly a bit rougher almost a century and three quarters ago. Kicking a player is definitely verboten these days; however, back in the day there was a little protection, as only the player nearest the ball could be hacked (that is, kicked)

iii. FIRST OF HIS SIDE, is the player nearest the ball on his side.
xxvii. No player but the first on his side, may be hacked, except in a scrummage.

Although anyone in the scrummage (shortened to scrum in the modern game) could expect a good shoeing. Also it was only permitted to kick with the toe and contact had to be below the knee - so that's alright then!

xxvi. No hacking with the heel, or above the knee, is fair.

Mercifully players were restricted in the metalwork permitted on their footwear.

xxviii. No player may wear projecting nails or iron plates on the heels or soles of his shoes or boots.

Another rule shows that the pitch wasn't the carefully maintained greensward we take for granted nowadays.

xviii. A player having touched the ball straight for a tree, and touched the tree with it, may drop from either side if he can, but the opposite side may oblige him to go to his own side of the tree.

That said, the Kent cricket ground in Canterbury had a large lime tree inside the boundary until it blew down in 2005. And a replacement is already growing.

The one rule in the modern game that causes so much confusion is the offside rule. Simply put, a player is offside if they are in front of the ball or the last player on their side to touch it. Strangely, the crux of offside seems to have survived through the ages.

ii. OFF SIDE. A player is off his side if the ball has touched one of his own side behind him, until the other side touch it.

And finally a question, with the Autumn Internationals in mind. Which nine teams have beaten Australia, South Africa and New Zealand? We think we have found them all, but if you know any others we will be delighted to hear from you.


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