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Historical Rugby Milestones 1860s

Carl Mullen signs rugby ball for small boy


A short Historical Back drop of Britain

  • Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, dies aged 42 1861
  • Joseph Lister writes on antiseptics in 'The Lancet' 1867
  • Second Reform Act doubles the electorate 1867
  • Suez Canal opens, linking the Mediterranean and the Red Sea 1869


Manchester FC club was founded. Many players from Manchester's had played in the match in Liverpool in three years earlier, why Manchester did not form at the same date is unknown!

Richard Sykes was the first captain but owing to a lack of opposition they only played 2 or 3 games a year. Sykes trained players on the Western Cricket ground, Pendleton assisted by Major White of the 84th regiment of foot, then garrisoned at Ashton-under-lyne and other Rugbeians. He remained captain until 1867 by which time a home ground has been established in Whalley Range.

Yale, Princeton, Rutgers, Brown and most of the other eastern colleges began experimenting with soccer. Princeton even published a set of rules in 1867 based on those of the London Football Association. Despite slight variations, the games played on most campuses resembled each other.

rugby school 1860











Early Picture of Boys awaiting a game of Football at Rugby School circa 1860/1.

The first British Army Rugby team was the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, where a club was formed in 1860, although football was already a popular pastime there in 1856/7.

First external Trinity game: Wanderers (former students of Trinity) 1860.


Richmond and Sale clubs founded.

Montevideo Cricket Club, Uruguay, is the first club outside Europe to play rugby.


The first recorded football match in South Africa (August 1862).

Blackheath publish their club rules.


The official parting of the ways between Rugby and Association football can be traced to the codification of the various forms of football and the formation of governing bodies such as the FA and the RFU. Later the formation of international governing bodies and international rules/laws would help the game spread globally.

There had been rules in the past. Too many and often conflicting - that was the problem. With its origins in mob football, an often violent game played on holy days in English towns and villages in which an anything-goes philosophy was adopted to get the ball to designated ends, differences early on centred on the amount of handling and hacking involved.

From the early 19th Century, matches were first played on the pitches, playgrounds and cloisters of England’s public schools, but Eton’s way of playing would differ to Harrow’s, theirs to Winchester’s, to Charterhouse’s and so on to the ultimate extreme at Rugby. Frustrated, undergraduates at Cambridge tried to unify the rules in the mid-to-late 1840s and those rules would largely be accepted when the FA was formed.

Following a letter from the captain of Barnes FC to "Bells Life" a meeting of 11 clubs was convened in the freemason's tavern in Great Queen Street, Lincoln Inn Fields, London on October 26th, 1863. The letter stated "That it is advisable that a football association should be formed for the purpose of settling a code of rules for the regulation of the game of football". This was the first FA meeting.

Clubs attending were: Blackheath, Forest, No Names, War Office, Crusaders, Crystal Palace, Kensington School, Surbiton, Blackheath school, Barnes and Perceval House School.

Francis Maude Campbell of Blackheath was elected Treasurer.

10 November – 2nd FA meeting.
Although some public schools reply to the letters sent out by the FA offering membership, Rugby School does not. Rules are discussed. At this point it is still the intention to merge the Rugby School rules into the FA's national football rules with everyone else's.

14 November – 4th FA meeting.
The proposed rules for 'football' are read out. F. W. Campbell (Blackheath) asserts that they were "worthy of consideration". Handling the ball is allowed, but other aspects of Rugby School rules, such as hacking (kicking) and hacking over (tripping over), are forbidden.

1 December – 5th FA meeting.
Campbell believes that hacking is an essential element of the 'football' game that his club (Blackheath) wants to play. To eliminate hacking would "do away with all the courage and pluck from the game, and I will be bound over to bring over a lot of Frenchmen who would beat you with a week's practice".

8 December – 6th FA meeting.
A second set of Cambridge rules were made which prohibited running with the ball and hacking (these later became the basis for the rules of association football). Campbell informs the meeting that the laws that the FA wants to adopt would destroy the game and all interest in it. He then withdraws Blackheath from membership of the FA.
Other rugby clubs follow this lead and do not join the Football Association. Without the participation of these clubs many of the Rugby School football influences are dropped from the FA's laws and the brand new football game (soccer) will become an almost exclusively dribbling sport.

On December 19th, Barnes FC played Richmond at Mortlake in the first game of football under FA rules. Richmond then withdrew from the FA and played Blackheath on January 2nd under Blackheath's rules (it ended in a draw). The was the first recorded club game and was played under the "Harrow rules" but changed the next year to "Rugby rules" after an influx of ex-Rugby pupils. This is the oldest regular fixture in Rugby Union Football.


Sydney University was the first Australian club formed.

F. Barlow Cumberland and Fred A. Bethune first codified rules for rugby football in Canada in 1864 at Trinity College, Toronto.


Bath (formerly known as Bath Zouaves) and Wimbledon Hornets formed.

West of Scotland FC formed, Glasgow's oldest Football Club, a founder member of the SRU West and also played a leading role in establishing International Rugby by being a prime mover in organising the first rugby International (Scotland vs England) in 1871 and hosting it at it's ground in 1872. The club produced caps such as Sandy Carmichael, Peter and Gordon Brown, the Gossman brothers, David Leslie, Gerry McGuiness, Matt Duncan, James Craig and Alan & Gordon Bulloch. In addition, Andy Henderson was a product of their mini/midi rugby program.

The first Canadian game of rugby took place in 1865 in Montreal between English regiment officers and civilians, mainly from McGill U.


Bradford, Hampsted (renamed Harlequins 1870) formed.

Glasgow Academicals formed (played their first match in the season 1867-1868)

Football club established at Yokohama reported in the Japan Times Jan 26th, 1866.

Article in Japan Times Jan 26th, 1866. Supplied by Mike Galbraith.

1867 - Wasps formed.

Twickenham formed.

1868 - Brighton, England, North of Ireland Cricket Club with name "North" ( NIFC), Ireland founded.

First Canadian club formed, Montreal, by students of McGill University along with soldiers stationed in the city.

Richmond calls for a ban of 'hacking'.

Nelson Football Club in New Zealand founded by Mr R.C. Tennent, but did not adopt Rugby rules until 1870 (see 1870).


Queen’s University, Ireland; Brighton and Oxford, England founded. Preston Grasshoppers formed. Sydney University is the first rugby club to be formed in Australia.

Extract from a very well written article produced by the Professional footballers researchers association:

In the fall of 1869 William Leggett, the captain of Rutgers' 'football' team, took advantage of the proximity of the two schools and issued a challenge to William S. Gummere, his opposite number at Princeton.

The contest is usually referred to as the first intercollegiate football game and therefore American fans celebrated football's centennial in 1969, however, the games were played under Association Football-like rules (which had been formalized in the UK in 1863). At that point in time most colleges had their own rules.

In fact two games were played, the first game on November 6th was played at a Rutgers field under Rutgers rules where two teams of 25 players attempted to score by kicking the ball into the opposing team's goal. Throwing or carrying the ball was not allowed. The first team to reach six goals was declared the winner. Rutgers won by a score of six to four. A rematch was played at Princeton a week later (November 13th) under Princeton rules (one notable difference was the awarding of a "free kick" to any player that caught the ball on the fly). Princeton won that game by a score of eight to zero.

Rugby Union was was first played in Newcastle, Aus. on 5 June 1869, when the Volunteer Artillery team (8 players) challenged United Cricket Club (11 Players). The match was played in Centennial Park (currently Lowlands Bowling Club). The game erupted into a violent brawl (Battle of St. John`s Green) with the result - undecided.

See 1877

Sydney University is the first rugby club to be formed in Australia.




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