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Rugby’s history and ethos

Beginner's guide - Rugby’s history and ethos

Rugby’s history and ethos

Legend has it that in 1823, during a game of school football in the town of Rugby, England, a young man named William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran towards the opposition’s goal line.

Two centuries later, rugby football has evolved into one of the world’s most popular sports, with millions of people playing, watching and enjoying the game.

At the heart of rugby is a unique ethos which it has retained over the years. Not only is the game played to the Laws, but within the spirit of the Laws.

Through discipline, control and mutual self-respect, a fellowship and sense of fair play are forged, defining rugby as the game it is.

From the school playground to the Rugby World Cup final, rugby union offers a truly unique and thoroughly rewarding experience for all involved in the game.

The World Rugby core values and Playing Charter

In 2009, member unions identified integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect as the defining characteristics of rugby. These are now collectively known as the World Rugby core values and are incorporated within the World Rugby Playing Charter, a document which aims to ensure that rugby maintains its unique character both on and off the field of play.


The core values enable participants immediately to understand the character of the game and what makes it distinctive as a sport which is played by people of all shapes and sizes.

The World Rugby Playing Charter is incorporated within the World Rugby Laws of the game and can be seen at in a variety of languages.



Rugby Beginner's Quiz

Rugby Beginner's Quiz

New to rugby? Find out how much you know about the game.