The Calcutta Cup has to be the most famous trophy in the rugby world. The masterpiece of workmanship has a truly wonderful, colourful history.
Created in the 1870s on the sub-continent of India, the Calcutta Cup is decorated with intricate cobras and an elephant. It’s origins are through the disbandment of the Calcutta Football Club in 1878 – once the club was discontinued, members decided they wanted to perpetuate the name of their beloved institution. As a result, they gathered the remains of the club’s funds (£60) in silver Rupees (270 in total) and had them melted down. With this, they commissioned the Calcutta Cup.
Intricate Indian workmanship created the 18 inch high piece. The main decoration features include three king cobras (which form the handles) and a domed lid topped by a beautiful, ornate elephant. The silver cup sits on a wooden base, inscribed with ‘THE CALCUTTA CUP’. The original cup (now in an incredibly fragile state due to mistreatment) was presented to the Rugby Football Union in 1878, by the now-defunct Calcutta Football Club. Initially, it was meant to be competed for annually, as the club’s last input to the cause of Rugby Football.
At the time of its introduction to international competition, there were only three national sides – England, Scotland and Ireland. The Irish team was considered a poor team as they lacked a single point from any of their international games in the 1870s – eight matches in total! Due to this, it became common practice for the ornate trophy to be awarded to the winners of the annual England V Scotland match. The cup was first competed for in 1879.
By the 1890s, Irish and Welsh rugby had become well established and respected – as a result there was a significant movement to make the Calcutta Cup available to any team that won the Home Nations series. By this time, however, the Calcutta Cup was well-loved and respected in the public forum and it was decided to reserve the cup for the annual Scotland v England match.
Since it’s introduction in 1879, Scotland has won about a third of the matches (39) and England just over half (66). There have been 119 matches altogether. Since 2009 it has been in England’s possession – the last battle for the cup was at the Murrayfield Stadium. On the base of the cup is a recording of every winner since 1871 (a few years before its creation!). The names of both captains of the competing teams are also recorded. Matches are recorded every year with the exceptions of 1915-1919 and 1940-1946 due to the two World Wars. The venue for the annual match alternates between Murrayfield Stadium, Scotland (occurring on all even years) and Twickenham Stadium, England (on all odd years).
As previously mentioned, the cup is in a significantly fragile state, due to many years of neglect and bad treatment. Due to this, it is unable to travel or attend functions. Both competing nations have full size replicas of the beloved trophy, made by modern technology. When it was won by England many years ago, it was put on display in the Museum of Rugby in Twickenham.
The next competition takes place in Twickenham, England. Nicknamed ‘The Home Of English Rugby’, it is truly a magnificent place to visit.