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The New Zealand team, known as the All BlacksThe New Zealand team, known as the All BlacksRugby is a highly physical team game in which players carry and kick an oval ball. Players try to score points by touching the ball down behind the opponent’s goal line, or by kicking it over a crossbar between two goal posts. The game branched off from football in the 19th century and is played by men and women in separate teams. Players numbered 1 to 8 are forwards, who aim to win possession of the ball; 9 to 15 are backs—faster, more agile players whose role is mainly to run and pass the ball, and tackle their opponents. There are two different types, or codes, of rugby: rugby union and rugby league. The major international tournament in rugby union is the Rugby World Cup, first held in 1987 and played every four years.

An 1875 illustration of British men playing rugby An 1875 illustration of British men playing rugby


Tradition says rugby was inspired during a game of football at Rugby School, England, in 1823, when a pupil called William Webb Ellis picked up and ran with the ball. There is no evidence for this, but a Rugby School pupil called Jem Mackie was known for running with the ball in 1838, and the first rules of the game were written there in 1845. Rugby eventually separated completely from football with the establishment of the Rugby Football Union in 1871.

Rugby balls were originally made by stitching leather round an inflated pig bladder, making a plum shape that is larger and rounder than today’s balls.

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