The first international rugby game played under Union rules was Scotland vs England in 1871. Scotland won 1 – 0. WHAT? 1-0. Yes, seriously. I’m still talking about rugby. In those days every time a ‘try’ was scored you would have a ‘try’ at a kick for goal if sucessful your team would earn a point. So how did international rugby get going in Scotland? The origins of rugby its self are vauge, did Webb Ellis really run with a football to create the game or was it simply the codification of rules of a football-style game where players were permitted to pick up the ball? No one knows. This article concentrates soley on the origins of rugby football as an INTERNATIONAL sport in Scotland. One could say that rugby in Scotland as it’s recognised today orignates from the formation of the Scottish Football Union in 1873 and the change from 20 a side to 15 a side in 1877. Before 1877 its existance in schools such as the Edinborough academy whom had been playing a rugby style game since the 1850s consisted of a lack of union rules and was an unregulated form of football. It’s impossible to point at one point in history and mark it the ‘start’ of rugby as an international game in Scotland, there isn’t one event. Rather, it’s a process of decades of changing that shaped ‘the carrying game’ into rugby Union as we know it today.
The beginning of this process was in 1870 when a group of Scottish players challenged England to a game of ‘the carrying game’. Of course, England could hardly deny such a challenge after thrashing Scotland at several 11 a side football games in December 1870. The game was played under the following rules;
1. The ball, on going into touch, is to be thrown into the ground again from the spot where it crossed the line, and not where it first pitched into touch.
2. For a try at goal, the ball is brought out in a straight line from where it was touched down.
Scottish rugby is more important than some might think. Did Scotland simply jump on the band wagon and start playing with the ‘home nations’ after rugby started to gain traction? No. Scotland was, in fact, one of the founding members of the international rugby Board in 1886 with England joining in 1890 which is seen as a key step in the direction of Rugby Union as we know it today and not the game that advocated 15man scrums and free-for-all’s. This was a step into moving rugby from an informal sport of the triple crown that was firstly contested in 1883 to a regulated sport with laws. Why laws? The students whom wrote the rules were lawyers and reffered to rules as ‘laws’ Scotland was also the first home Union to own its own rugby ground. Yet it would be the outbreak of the first world war in 1914 that would hinder the expansion of rugby union. The sport had steadily gained traction through Scotland during the lat 1890’s and early 1900’s with international games being played versus Ireland and England.
Next Edition: Scotland Part 2 (Post war)