During our school days we all had to compete in sports that we did not want to do. Pulling on a pair of running socks and some trainers as we ran to compete in the annual cross country around the lanes and fields. Usually carried out during the winter, it was not high on many students wish list when they started school. The more popular sports were hockey, football and rugby.
The sport rugby originated from the town of the same name in the county of Warwickshire. It was first played during the 19th century at public schools as one of many types of football played during this period. At the end of the 19th century the sport split into two formats league and union, and with it the rules of each differed greatly.
Watching a game of rugby league or union you will see a lot of similarities between to two codes of the game. However the main differences is that union has kept many opportunities in which the ball can be contested after the tackle, usually in the form of rucks and mauls.
Both forms of the game are popular all over the world, the first world cup for league football was held in France during 1954. The current world champions are Australia having won the current world cup in 2013 and the first union world cup was held in New Zealand in 1987. The current world champions are New Zealand having won the world cup in 2015.
Both codes of the game have professional leagues all over the world, but the most popular leagues of both forms can be found in the southern hemisphere countries of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, as well as the northern hemisphere countries of France and England.
Another format of the union game is ‘rugby sevens’. This was first played as far back as 1883, but only become popular during the 1970s. With this format of the game the amount of players you will see on the pitch are less, reduced from 15 to 7. This offered a more open, exciting and high scoring game. This format was introduced into the Olympics in 2016, with Fiji winning the Olympic gold medal.
The shape of the ball was designed to make passing the ball between play easier, originally called a quanco and made from a leather casing around an inflated pigs bladder. The balls varied in size due to the variation in size of the bladder. In the modern game the ball is made from 4 panels of leather or synthetic material and is regulated in size and weight.
The rugby kit comprises of a shirt, shorts and socks. In the beginning the shirts were made of cotton and were heavy and uncomfortable. Thankfully due to advancements in the sports clothing industry shirts are now made of a high wicking type material that draws the moisture away from the skin and makes it evaporate much more quickly. This makes the shirts easier and more comfortable for players to wear in the wet.
The humble sock has gone through advancements in improving the material they used to be made from. Socks are generally made of a thick material that is often breathable. Socks also have padding, cushioning as well as strong toe and heel reinforcement, all of which help with fitting of the sock and its comfort within the players boot.
Rugby is a sport enjoyed by millions of players and spectators all over the world, but no match has reached the heady heights of a match in 1954. Over 100,000 spectators crammed into the ground and watched a league challenge cup final at Bradford. A spectator figure that will probably never be matched due to current stadium criteria and health and safety regulations.