The olympics was resurrected in modern times by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a French educator. He formed the international Olympic committee (IOC) in 1894 and introduced rugby to the second games in 1900.
De Coubertin admired the ethos of Rugby Football, its moral values as well as the physical and mental skills required to play it. His biographers mention boxing, fencing, rowing and horse-riding as his main sporting interests. They however failed to underline his active interest in Rugby Football, reflected in a famous essay called' Notes about Foot-ball', which he wrote in 1896:
The Baron was 25 when he visited Rugby School for the first time in 1888. The visit was part of a wider tour of English public schools and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge to learn from the revolutionary Victorians who put sport at the heart of education. His research from the playing fields of England was compiled in LÉducation en Angleterre (1888), in which he noted how “organised sport can create moral and social strength”.
By the time he visited Rugby School de Coubertin had already read both the works of Thomas Arnold, Rugby’s great headmaster and educationalist, and Thomas Hughes’ novel, Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Arnold's essays and the fortunes of young Tom Brown made a great impression on the young French aristocrat, in search of educational models for his country, traumatised by defeat in the French-Prussian war.
Lord Coe unveiled a plaque at Rugby School in May 2009 commemorating its legendary Head Master, Thomas Arnold, as an important inspiration behind Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the Frenchman who established the modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896.
Also shown:Patrick Derham - Headmaster and chair of governors Micheal Fowl. Picture credit: Rugby School
De Coubertin, an educationalist like his hero, was deeply impressed by the athleticism and sportsmanship at Rugby and other British public schools he visited during the 1880s. De Coubertin wrote:
After his return from his first visit to England, de Coubertin became an active promoter of physical education in general and Rugby Football in particular, which he managed to introduce into several school establishments in Paris, securing the long term future of the Game in the country and as one of the founders of the game in France, he set up the first French schools championship in 1890. He went on playing with his friends in Bois de Boulogne and although there is no information about his Rugby prowess, his knowledge of the Game was well respected by his peers, who elected him to referee the 1892 match between Stade Française and Racing Club de France – now regarded as the inaugural French championship. In April of that year, he was instrumental in bringing Rosslyn Park FC to Paris, to play Stade Français. This was the first time an English Club had played in continental Europe.
The French educationalist became one of France's leading promoters of sport in general and Rugby in particular, and as such he played a significant role in the formation of the Union des Sociétés Français de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA) and the development of Rugby in France. He was elected to the IRB Hall of Fame in 2007.
That very same year, 1892, de Coubertin made the first public call to restitute the Olympic Games. The first 'modern' games were held in Athens in 1896 but did not include Rugby. Rugby was added to the Olympic program for the second Olympiad and featured in the games held at Paris in 1900, London in 1908, Antwerp in 1920, and Paris again in 1924.
In 1925, Baron de Coubertin stepped down as the President of the IOC and his successor, Count Baillet-Latour, did not share the enthusiasm of the founder for Rugby Football. The 1925 Olympic Congress, at which Baillet-Latour was elected as the second IOC President, signalled the beginning of a drive against team sports and despite the vigorous protestations of the Dutch students keen to have Rugby in the programme of the 9th Olympic Games in Amsterdam, Rugby was dropped from the Olympic programme - even though rugby had sold more tickets than the track and field events celebrated in the movie about the 1924 Olympics, "Chariots of Fire."
Rugby was never again part of the Olympic Games, though its American Football cousin appeared as a demonstration sport at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. It was the last time an oval ball featured in the Olympic Games, though a Pre-Olympic Rugby tournament involving France, Germany, Italy and Romania was held in Berlin before the 1936 Olympics.
October 9th, 2009
Rugby Sevens will be included at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
An overwhelming vote in favour of inclusion by the International Olympic Committee members at the 121st Session in Copenhagen - Rugby Sevens received 81 'yes' votes to only eight 'no' votes - means that the world's top men's and women's Rugby players will have the opportunity to compete for an Olympic Gold medal, the pinnacle of sporting achievement. Read more on re-instating Rugby to the Olympics
Games Gold Silver Bronze 1900 Paris France Germany not awarded Great Britain 1904 St. Louis not included in the Olympic program 1908 London Australasia Great Britain not awarded 1912 Stockholm not included in the Olympic program 1920 Antwerp United States France not awarded 1924 Paris United States France Romania
Note: Click on the team name to see team lists.
Dual gold medallists:
Daniel Carroll was a member of the Australian gold medal team in 1908, and won another gold for the USA in 1920.
Morris Kirksey, gold medalist in the sprint relay and silver medallist in the 100 metres on the track in 1920, was a member of the gold medal rugby team in 1920. Kirksey failed by 18 inches (46cm) to beat Charlie Paddock for the sprint gold.
Team Played Won Lost For Against Diff. Gold Silver Bronze United States 3 3 0 64 3 +61 2 – – France 5 3 2 116 53 +63 1 2 – Australasia 1 1 0 32 3 +29 1 – – Great Britain 2 0 2 11 59 -48 – 2 – Germany 1 0 1 17 27 -10 – 1 – Romania 2 0 2 3 98 -95 – – 1
In 1900 the Olympics was a much smaller event than we see today and only three countries entered a rugby team, France, Britain and Germany. Britain sent the Moseley Wanderers to represent them; Germany, was represented by players from FC Frankfurt 1880, and host France entered the Paris club side.
The French national team played Germany represented by Frankfurt beating them 27 to 17.
Teams as entered in the official olympic report
October 28th, 1900
The French national team then played Great Britain represented by Mosley Wanderers RFC beating them 27 - 8. 6000 watched the game, 4,389 of them paying for entry. This was the largest crowd of the 1900 Olympic games.
Teams as entered in the official olympic report
No decider was played so Germany was awarded Silver and Moseley Bronze on points differential.
If you want to read more about Moseley click here.
Cornwall, the champion county of the previous season, was chosen by the RFU Committee to represent the United Kingdom and play the Australians who were making their first tour of the UK during 1908/9. The Australians would end the tour with a 25-5-1 record. The decision to choose Cornwall was somewhat controversial, as the Australians had beaten Cornwall 18 - 5 on a previous occasion when ten of the same men were playing; and only three of their fifteen had ever represented England before. As expected, the Cornishmen were defeated even worse than they had been at Camborne some three weeks before, and the Australians took the gold medals, by 32 points to 3.
The games could have been somewhat different if it wasn't for the fact that the Anglo-Welsh team who had been playing in New Zealand had not received a letter inviting them and the fact that the French were unable to send over a team and withdrew at the last minute.
Note the name D.B.Carroll from Sidney who played for Australia, he later immigrated to the US following a tour in 1912 and then played for them as the captain/coach in the 1920 Olympics and therefore won two gold medals for two different countries. he also coached the 1924 USA side.
Few Americans know that rugby was played in the early years of modern Olympic competition, let alone that the USA won the last two Olympic rugby gold medals up for grabs. But if the news that an American rugby team brought home Olympic gold medals in 1920 & 1924 comes as a surprise today, it was nothing less than astounding when it last happened eighty years ago. It is all the more astounding knowing that rugby hadn't been played competitively in the U.S. for more than a decade prior to the events. Rugby had been all the rage in California high at the turn of the century, but the sport had died out by the outbreak of World War I. It's no surprise then that the US Olympic committee refused to even fund the trips.
1920 US Olympic Team:
(BACK, L-R) Wallace, Patrick, O’Neil, Fish, J Muldoon, Fitzpatrick, Slater, Righter.
(MIDDLE): Meehan, Hazeltine, Maloney (trainer), Tilden (c), Carroll (pl/coach), W Muldoon, von Schmidt, Scholz.
(FRONT): Wrenn, Doe, Hunter, Davis, Winston. Missing: Templeton, Kirksey
A movement to send an Olympic rugby team to represent the US in Antwerp started after an undefeated Cal-Berkeley tour to British Columbia in 1920. The US Olympic committee (USOC) sanctioned an All American side, on condition that the enterprise be underwritten by the California Rugby Union (CRU) and the chosen players. Selection to the team was left to the California RU and its president, W Harry Maloney since US rugby was heavily concentrated in the California area.
CRU officials and players, with the assistance of AAU representative Sam Goodman, created fundraisers. Dances and baseball games were held for donations; and individual contributions were gathered from throughout the local community.
Selections were made from a pool of 42 players in three intra-squad trial matches. The team was composed mainly of players from Stanford, Cal-Berkeley and Santa Clara, with the remaining California club players recently graduated from the collegiate ranks.
Notable players included Stanford’s Dan Carroll, an Australian gold medallist center who had scored two tries in the 1908 Games. Carroll, now a naturalized US citizen, was the player/coach of the 1920 US team and destined to win another rugby gold in Antwerp.
Stanford rugger, Robert L "Dink" Templeton, was an Olympic high jumper. Morris Kirksey, another Stanford man, lost the 1920 Olympic gold in the 100 meters by 18 inches to fellow American and world record holder Charles Paddock. Kirksey then added a gold in the 4x100 relay to his silver in the 100. Cal-Berkeley’s Charles L Tilden, Jr was selected captain of the first US Olympic rugby team and served as manager as well.
The accommodations provided at Antwerp for the first post-war Olympians were austere in a nation ravaged by World War I and struggling to rebuild from the carnage. The US team, including the rugby players, had to endure a trans-Atlantic crossing aboard an overcrowded Army transport ship, the Sherman, and nearly revolted when confronted with their quarters in Antwerp. After the reinstatement to the US contingent of a triple jumper who had been thrown off the team when he found better lodgings on his own, the US athletes relented, but still had to accept their poor accommodations.
By the time the US Rugby team arrived in Europe, Czechoslovakia and Romania had withdrawn from the competition, France and USA were the only teams left to compete and France, as the European champions, were savoring a certain gold medal. Fifty thousand people assembled in Antwerp Stadium, Nelgium and by half time the score was 0-0. Half way through the second half they marked a kick in front of goal and Templeton kicked it over for 3 points.
Action during the 1920 game
Later on the forwards dribbled the ball to within 5 yards of the French goal line and when the French forwards fumbled the ball Hunter picked it up and fell over the line for a try which was converted. The shocked onlookers were numbed by an 8 – 0 victory for the United States. The Americans had won the gold medal. The stunned French suggested that the US team tour France, which they did although only sixteen players stayed on.
On Sept 19th Lyon: a team representing the SE of France was beaten 26-0. On September 22nd Toulouse a Southern France team was beaten 14-3, On September 25th Bordeaux a SW French team was beaten 6-3 and finally in Paris on Oct 10th a French national team defeated the US 14-5.
A gold medal and winning three out of the four follow-up matches, not bad!
USA vs. France (Credit: IOC/Olympic Museum collections)
In September 1923, the U.S. Olympic Committee once again agreed to send an American rugby team to the 1924 Paris Olympics to defend their title.
The French Olympic Committee (FOC) had scheduled the rugby event to kick off the 1924 Paris Games, and lowly Romania and the USA were to provide only token opposition for the European Champions, France the team was picked to win the gold medal in grand style.
"They were looking for a punching bag," says 87-year-old Norman Cleaveland, a Stanford All-American halfback of the twenties who was one of the first athletes to respond to the call putout through the press in the Fall of 1923. "We were told to go to Paris and take our beatings like gentlemen." Nevertheless, seven players of the 1920 team together with a host of large American football players making up a 22 man squad, raised $20,000 and headed for England to prepare where they were beaten four times in practice sessions. The coach Charlie Austin was relying on his team's size, speed, stamina, and raw athletic ability to compensate for its technical deficiencies.
Robert H. Coleman Devereaux
Charles Webster Doe, Jr.
The USA Olympic rugby team arrived in Paris, via England on April 27, 1924, after a 6,000 mile journey by train, bus, ship, and ferry from Oakland, California.
But if these young American athletes expected to be welcomed to France with kisses on both cheeks, they were unpleasantly surprised. The team was the target of hostility even before the players set foot on French soil. French journalists branded them "streetfighters and saloon brawlers" after a brouhaha in the port of Boulogne where immigration officials mistakenly refused the team entry, and the players - many of whom had been seasick during the turbulent crossing - forced their way off the ship onto dry land.
The American rugby players' reputation only deteriorated. When Paris authorities cancelled previously arranged games against local club teams and restricted American workouts to a patch of scrub land next to their hotel, the players responded by marching down to Colombes Stadium, scaling the fence, and going through their paces on the hallowed turf.
France vs. Romania
The Olympic games of 1924 opened on May 4th with a match between France and Romania. Playing its first fifteen, the French notched a 61 to 3 victory (some say 59-3) over the smaller eastern European team, scoring 13 tries including four by the fine Stade Francais winger Adolphe Jaureguy.
Captains N Maresco - Romania, R Lasserre - France.
After the match, another round of trouble started over the referee for the France - USA match. An earlier selection of British Admiral Percy Royds was deemed unacceptable by US team manager Sam Goodman. The dispute degraded into the French no longer providing any practice fields for the team, so the Americans found themselves a park. Fanning the flames, the French press published an article by a Paris City Counselor questioning the amateur status of the American players. The Americans invited the Frenchman to come down to the pitch to discuss the matter. To make matters worse, an argument started over the French Olympic Committee's ruling that the American side could not film their match against Romania that weekend. A French company had been awarded sole rights to filming the Olympics, and an American request to film the match was flatly denied. A meeting on the 8th did not resolve the issue, so Sam Goodman told the French organizers that the US might pull out of the Games.
Adding fuel to the fire, the American players' clothes were robbed during that day's training session. Even though a French attendant had been posted, the team lost about $4,000 worth of cash and possessions. Cleaveland and his teammates were not very happy, and because of their treatment in the press, the American side was now being cursed and spat upon on in the streets of Paris. The American expatriate community in Paris was even staying well clear of them. The French press were now whipped up fierce anti-American sentiment in Paris.
The next day, the French agreed to allow the Romanian match to be filmed for historical and educational purposes. A selection featuring only six of the US starting fifteen was also announced for the match.
USA vs. Romania
On Sunday, May 11th , the US pounded Romania 39 to 0 at Colombes Stadium. With Norman at flyhalf, Richard "Tricky Dick" Hyland at center, and Jack Patrick at flanker, the US ran rampant through the Romanians, scoring nine tries.
Captains C Doe - USA, N Maresco - Romania
Fullback Charlie Doe had a good day kicking, scoring 13 points. With the impressive win, though, a difficult situation was brewing. Each time the Americans touched the ball, the French crowd of about 6000 booed and hissed. Conversely, they cheered and screamed each time the Romanians gained any possession, even though the Americans never let the Romanians within kicking distance of their own goal, and won every lineout and all but one scrum. And though everyone felt that the Americans would play a harsh, physical match, both the American and French sporting press noted the lack of violence and the skilled nature of US play, coupled with their size and fitness. Some of the French press even conceded that the fans had been unfair at the match. Still the odds were set at 5 to 1 against the US with a 20 point spread in the upcoming match with France. Two days later, the issue over the final's referee was settled when Sam Freethy of Wales was selected. That day, the team also moved from their hotel to the newly constructed Olympic housing. It seems that the hotel's proprietor became upset the night before due to "a little college cheering and rollicking" by the American players.
The final: USA vs. France
In the days leading up to the final, the U.S. rugby players were insulted and sometimes even spat upon if they dared venture outside their hotel.
The final was played at Colombes stadium, Paris on 18 May 1924 before 50,000 screeching, drunken Frenchmen who were oblivious to the FOC's public appeal for calm. Paris bookmakers set the odds at twenty to one; the points spread was twenty and no wonder: The French national rugby team was one of the greatest ever assembled, and included on its roster the legendary Adolphe Juarraguy, said to be the fastest rugby player alive. By comparison, most of the American players hadn't touched a rugby ball until six months earlier. The mob packing Colombes Stadium fully expected an easy gold medal for France to open the Paris Olympic Games.
Colombes stadium, Paris
As the team entered the stadium from a tunnel, they noted that the Olympic officials had elected to install a tall wire fence around the stadium to restrain the crowd. The American side wore white uniforms, blue belts, and white stockings hooped with red and blue. An American shield was sewed to the front of their jumpers. Wearing white shorts and blue stockings, the French took the field in their famous blue jumper badged with a cock. The American captain was Colby "Babe" Slater, and his French counterpart was Rene Lasserre. The US chose 45 minute halves, betting that their fitness and stamina would outlast the French. Sam Freethy agreed to 90 minutes over French protests and started the match.
France intended to take its revenge, but from the kickoff it was obvious the American players intended to avenge their treatment by the French. Two minutes after the opening whistle, Adolphe Jaureguy received a pass on the wing, and the crowd roared as its hero set off for the American line. But from out of nowhere came "Lefty" Rogers, Stanford's basketball captain, who leveled the famed Frenchman with a tooth-rattling tackle.
On the next play Jaureguy's stride was broken by another Rogers tackle. Then it was the turn of All-American and Rhodes Scholar Alan Valentine who had sprinted the width of the field to hurl his 210-lb bulk into the off-balance Juarraguy. "And that was the end of him," says Charlie Doe. Oblivious even to the sound of the howling crowd, Jaureguy was carted off the field bleeding, "like a sack of potatoes," according to Doe.
USA vs. France (Credit: IOC/Olympic Museum collections)
At halftime the score was only 3-0 in the USA's favor, but as team manager Sam Goodman put it, they had their opponents "buffaloed." The French players were devastated by the American football-style tackling, though as they admitted after the game, the hits were within the rules of the game.
In the second half the French defense crumbled in the wake of a series of ferocious American attacks. "Our men, " wrote Andre Glarner of the Exelsior newspaper, "too frail and hesitant, too fragile, could not hold up before the admirable athletes before them." The Americans, from Stanford University, scored five tries, (Farrish(2), Patrick, Rogers and Manelli), with a conversion by Doe. Gallau scored the lone French try.
With a humiliating French defeat imminent, the crowd began earning its reputation for thuggery (many foreign teams refused to play in Paris because of French rugby hooliganism at that time). American supporters were being beaten up in the stands, and their bodies passed down to the field to be collected by ambulances.
"I thought they were dead," says Norman Cleaveland. "We were sure it was only a matter of time before they got their hands on us." The match finished in uproar, when Gideon Nelson, one of the reserves, was flattened by a walking stick.
When the final whistle blew, the score was 17-3, and the French crowd was hysterical.
Charlie Doe saw the band pick up their instruments and conductor waving his baton, but, like his teammates, he couldn't hear a single note because of the cacophony of booing and catcalls.
The attitude of the French press changed dramatically after their national team's routing. In the interest of the remainder of the Games, French journalists began to portray the American players as heroes. "The American team is comprised of true athletes, all fast, strong, energetic, and possessing athletic qualities of which we are rarely aware in France," wrote Glarner of the Exelsior.
The fickle French public responded in kind. "When you're a hero in Paris, that's something! All we had to do was walk in to a bar or restaurant and there would be free drinks all around," says Norman Cleaveland.
The American victory, which marked Rugby's last appearance as an Olympic sport, was a feat then, called by UP sports Editor Henry J. Farrell "the brightest entry scored on all the pages of American international sports records."
The Rugby heroes returned to the Bay Area without much fanfare. Despite the USA's spectacular 1924 Olympic rugby victory, rugby again slipped back into obscurity in the U.S. That astonishes modern observers, but as Charlie Doe points out, the Olympics were "not such a big deal" before the advent of television coverage, which today can propel an obscure sport like Olympic hockey into the public consciousness.
See also Alan Valentine
|Constantin||Henriquez de Zubiera|
Note: Henriquez de Zubiera is thought to be the first black athlete to compete in the Olympics (3 months earlier he had competed in the tug-o-war).
Note: The team included two guest players namely Hugo Betting, FV Stuttgart and August Schmierer, Cannstatter-Fussball-Club.
|Emmanuel (Malcolm "Mannie")||Mcarthur|
|Jean||Bruneval (not listed on Olympic website)|
|Castex (not listed on Olympic website)|
|Pierre||Petiteau (not listed on Olympic website)|
|Daniel Brendan||Carroll||Stanford University, (also won gold with Australia 12 years earlier)|
|Charles Webster||Doe||Stanford University|
|Morris||Kirksey||Stanford University, (also won silver in the 100 yard dash & gold in the 4x100 relay)|
|John T.||O'Neil||Santa Clara University|
|John Clarence||Patrick||Stanford University|
|Cornelius Erwin||Righter||Stanford University|
|Rudolph John||Scholz||Santa Clara University|
|Robert Lyman||Templeton||Stanford University, (later became a famous track coach)|
|Heaton Luse||Wrenn||Stanford University|
James Duarte Winston (did not play)
George E. W. Davis (did not play)
Matthew Hazeltine (did not play)
Colby Slater (did not play)
Harold von Schmidt (did not play)
Davis M. Wallace (did not play)
William Muldoon (did not play)
Note: There is some debate as to whether Fitzpatrick actually played or not.
29 MAY 2004: 1924 Olympics rugby revisited
To mark the 80th anniversary of when rugby was last played in the Olympic Games in front of 50,000 spectators at the Stade Colombes, Paris on 18 May 1924, the International Rugby Board and the Fédération Francaise de Rugby, organisers of the IRB Sevens' Bordeaux event, commemorated the occasion in Bordeaux with an exhibition match.
Students of Bordeaux University, who first started playing 'le Jeu Anglais' more than a century ago, re-enacted the historic occasion, wearing playing kit specifically designed and manufactured for this match between France and the USA.
Like on 18 May 1924, the American team wore white V-neck jerseys with the shield of All American Student Rugby, white shorts and white socks with red and blue hoops, while France wore the traditional blue jerseys with white shorts and blue socks.
Rugby was one of 17 sports in the 1924 Olympics, which brought together 3,092 athletes from 44 countries. The rugby competition started on 4 May 1924, the opening day of the eighth Olympiad, which went on to last nearly three months.
The sport had previously been played at three Olympic Games; at the second Olympiads in Paris in 1900 where France won the gold, in 1908 in London where the touring Wallabies became Olympic Champions and in 1920 in Antwerp, where the USA managed to defeat France 8-0 to win the first of their Olympic golds.
How the teams shaped up in 1924:
fullback Charles Doe (1), left wing W. Rogers (2) centre (outside) N.Cleveland (3) right wing, F.Hyland (4) 2 nd 5/8 (inside centre) G.Dixon, (5), 1 st 5/8 (fly-half) R.Devereux,(6) scrum half (half-back) G.Scholtz (7) forwards: No 8 C.Slater (8) Captain, back row (3 rd row- wing forward) J.Patrick (9), back-row (3 rd row - wing forward) D. de Groot (10), second-row A.Valentine (11), second rown L.Farrish (12), front row (prop) G.Manelli (13), front row hooker J.O'Neill (14), front row prop E.Graff (15)
fullback E. Bonnes (1) left wing A. Jaureguy (2), centre A Behoteguy (3) centre J.Vaysse (4) right wing R.Got (5), fly-half (outside half) H.Galau (6), scrum-half (halfback) C.Dupont (7)
forwards No 8 R.Lasserre (8) Captain, back row (3rd row) A Bioussa (9), back row (3rd row) E.Piquiral (10), second row P.Lebrere-Lubin (11), second row A.Cassayet, (12), front-row (prop) J. Etcheberry (13), front-row hooker L.Beguet (14), front row-prop J.Bayard (15)
Referee: Albert Freethy (Wales),
Touch judges: Cyril Rutherford (France) and Norman Slater (USA)
Final score: USA 17-3 France
USA Tries: De Groot, J.Patrick, L.Farrish, W.Rogers, G.Manelli. Conversion: C.Doe
FRANCE Try: H.Galau
- The 1920 Olympic games - Bill Mallon & Anthony Th. Bijkerk, McFarland & Company, Inc.
- The History of Rugby in the Olympic Games - Richard Coppo
- IRB website - http://www.irb.com Rugby in the Olympics: History (2007)