History of Rugby

1823 - During a game of football at Rugby School in England, legend has it that 16 year old student William Webb Ellis, caught the ball and ran with it towards the opponent's goal line, rather than following the rules of the times of catching and kicking the ball only. Thus the game of Rugby was born.

1829 - "The Sydney Monitor" of 25th July reports a game of football at the soldiers Barracks (modern day Barrack St in Sydney).

1841 - Running with the ball was officially allowed in Rugby School's rules, providing the ball was taken on the bound; passing was specifically forbidden.

1864 - The first Australian rugby football club was established at Sydney University.

1871 - The first international match, between England and Scotland was played. Twenty players a side, 13 forwards, 3 half backs, 1 three quarter and three fullbacks.

1874 - The Southern Rugby Union - later changed to New South Wales Rugby Union - is formed at a meeting at the Oxford Hotel in Sydney.  

1875 - Tries received major recognition  in the game.  If both teams scored the same number of goals or if no goals were kicked, they match was decided on the majority of tries.

1877 - Player numbers in international matches reduced from 20 to 15.

1882 - The first inter Colonial match is played  between New South Wales and Queensland.  New South Wales won 28-4.

1883 - The Northern Rugby Union (NRU) was formed to administer the game in Queensland.    The Southern Rugby Union (NSW) tours New Zealand becoming the first team in the world to tour overseas.

1884 - The first New Zealand representative team visits Australia and wins all nine matches on tour.

1886 - A numerical value was adopted by The Rugby Football Union in England for tries and goals. Tries earned one point, conversions two and a goal from a mark, three points.

1888 - Club rugby is formally organized in Victoria and the Melbourne Rugby Union formed (MRU) against strong opposition from Australian Rules.
          -The first British Rugby Team to tour abroad makes an unofficial tour to Australia and New Zealand.   In a tragic boating accident, the British Captain R L Seddon drowned.  He was replaced as Captain by A E Stoddart who had just completed a tour of Australia with the English Cricket team.  To help cover their expenses, the team also played a number of Australian Rules Games in Victoria and South Australia.

1890 - Following the first meeting of the International Rugby Football Board in 1887, in 1890 the IRFB draws up one international code of laws.

1892 - The Southern Rugby Union and the Northern Rugby Union change their names to New South Wales Rugby Union and Queensland Rugby Union respectively.

1899 - Australia plays their first Test match - against the touring side from Great Britain.   In a four Test series played in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia won the first Test 13-3 at the  Sydney Cricket Ground on 24th June.

1903 - The first Test Match between Australia and NZ is played at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 15th August, won by NZ, 22-3. This tour greatly increased the popularity of rugby and large crowds started attending grade matches in Sydney and Brisbane.

1907 - A then record crowd of 52,411 attended the 13th July match between New South Wales and New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

1907/8 - Financed by newspaper proprietor Joynton Smith and a group of Sydney businessmen, Rugby League is established as a professional variant of the game of Rugby Union in New South Wales and Queensland.  Enticing the defection of Dally Messenger, then the most famous rugby player in Australia, they are able to attract a number of other prominent Wallabies.

1908/9 -  The first Wallabies tour the United Kingdom and America, winning 32 of the 38 matches played.  While in England, they competed in the 1908 London Olympics of 1908, winning the gold medal for Rugby Union.

1912 - Australia tours America.  This was the first and only tour specifically to America

1914 - 1918 - Due to the numbers of players enlisting in WWI, Australian senior rugby went into recess. Sadly, many prominent players and Wallabies were lost. These losses and the continued impact of Rugby League, greatly affected the strength of the code.  Restarting the game in 1919 in New South Wales proved difficult, but even more so in Victoria and Queensland, which were unable to regroup until 1926 and 1929 respectively.

1921 - South Africa visits Australia and New Zealand for the first time winning all three Tests in Australia.

1923 - The Shute Memorial Shield named in honour of R E Shute  was presented by the Sydney University Club, for the Sydney First Grade competition.

1927/28 - The NSW Waratahs tour the United Kingdom, France and North America, winning 24 and drawing two of their 31 official matches. They won three of their five internationals and averaged close to four tries per match. This team is credited with introducing running rugby into the Australian game. As the Waratahs were the only Australian representatives in the 1920s, all internationals played by them have been accorded retrospective Wallaby status.

1928/9 - The Queensland Rugby Union resumes operations and its re-emergence immediately makes a forceful impact on the performances of the Australian team, which defeated New Zealand in all 3 Tests for the first time.

1929 - Australian Rugby Union adopts green and gold as its official colours.  The Australian jersey is green with the Australian Coat of Arms.

1930 - The British Lions tour Australia.

1931 - The Bledisloe Cup was presented by the then Governor General of New Zealand, Lord Bledisloe, for competition between New Zealand and Australia. The inaugural competition was won by New Zealand two games to one.

1933 - The Wallabies make their first tour to South Africa for a four test series, won by South Africa three to one.

1934 - Australia win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time.

1939 - The tour of the 1939 Wallabies is cancelled when war is declared the day after the team arrive in England.  After two weeks in England, the team returns home.

1939 -1945 -Rugby administrators elect to continue the local club competition throughout the period of hostilities of WWII.

1946 - After eight years, the first Test to mark the end of WWII is played between Australia and New Zealand.

1947/48 - The Wallabies tour the United Kingdom and North America.  In the four tests against the Home Unions the Australian line was never crossed.

1948 - Australia is invited to join the International Rugby Football Board.  This invitation gives impetus to the formation of an Australian Rugby Union combining all State Unions.

1949 - The inaugural meeting of the Australian Rugby Football Union is held on 25th November with eleven delegates from the six States.  The Australian Capital Territory became a member in 1972 and the Northern Territory an associate member in 1978.
         - Australia records its first Bledisloe Cup win on New Zealand soil.

1953 - Australia toured South Africa for the second time and although they lost the series they were given a standing ovation after defeating South Africa 18-14 in a thrilling 2nd Test at Newlands. Wallaby Captain John Solomon was chaired off the field by two South African players.  This was the first Springbok defeat for 15 years.

1958 - The Wallabies fail to win a test during their tour of the British Isles and France.

1961 - To avoid confusion with the Springbok jersey, the Australian jersey is changed from green to gold for the 1961 Wallaby tour to South Africa.  It has remained predominantly gold ever since.

1963 - The touring Wallabies beat the Springboks in consecutive Tests, the first team to do so since the 1896 British team.

1966 - The Ballymore Ground is open in Brisbane.

1967 - The first of many successful overseas tours by an Australian Schoolboys' team takes place to South Africa, winning 5 out of 7.

1970s -  A re-appraisal of coaching techniques and administration is undertaken to further the development of Australian Rugby.

1971 - The South African tour of Australia is marred by violent anti-apartheid protests.

1979 - The Wallabies win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 1949.

1981 - Mark, Gary and Glen Ella become the first three brothers to be chosen in the same Wallaby squad.

1984 - The eighth Wallabies complete the Grand Slam during their tour of Great Britain and Ireland. This was the most successful Australian team to date and its record features a try in every Test by Mark Ella.

1987 - The inaugural Rugby World Cup was played in Australia and New Zealand. It was won by New Zealand who became the first country to retain the William Web Ellis Trophy.

1991  - Second Rugby World Cup is held in the Northern Hemisphere with Australia defeating England 12-3 in the final at Twickenham.
          -  The Inaugural Women's Rugby World Cup is won by the USA. 

1992 - The value of a try is increased from four to five points.
         - South Africa and Australia play their first test since the end of apartheid in South Africa allowed them to return to the International Rugby Competition.

1995 - The third Rugby World Cup takes place in South Africa, drawing a world wide TV audience of over one billion viewers. It was won by South Africa.
         - International Rugby Union becomes professional at all levels.
         - The Southern Hemisphere rugby countries of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia form SANZAR (South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby) to administer an annual provincial Super 12 competition and Tri-Nations tests series between the three countries.

1996 - The Super 12 and Tri Nations competitions begin.  The Super 12 competition is made up of  five teams from New Zealand, four from South Africa and three from Australia.

1997 - The Bledisloe Cup is played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground - the first  international rugby game played at the MCG -  and draws a crowd of 83,000.

1998 - Australia wins the Bledisloe Cup in its first clean sweep in a three test series since the competition started in 1931.

1999 - Wales hosts the fourth Rugby World Cup. Australia win for the second time, beating France in the Final at Cardiff Park, in Wales.

2000 -  Australia win every international rugby trophy contested.

2001 - Australia wins its first series ever against the British and Irish Lions.
         - Coach Rod Macqueen and Captain John Eales retire.  The positions are handed to Eddie Jones and George Gregan.

2003 - Australia hosts the 2003 Rugby World Cup. England win the Cup, playing Australia in the Final at Telstra Stadium, Sydney.

2004 - George Gregan plays his 100th Test for Australia.

2005 - John Connelly takes over as Wallabies Coach.

2006 - The Super 12 competition expands into Super 14 with the addition of the Western Force (Perth) and the Cheetahs from South Africa.
          - Stirling Mortlock becomes the 73rd player to Captain the Wallabies in the Test against England in Melbourne.
           - Australia wins the Under 19 World Cup for the first time defeating New Zealand in the Final in Dubai.

2007 - Stephen Larkham plays his 100th Test for Australia.
           - The sixth iRB Rugby World Cup is hosted in France. South Africa win for the second time defeating England in the Final.
           - George Gregan (134 Tests and the world's most capped player) and Stephen Larkham (102 Tests) both retire from the Wallabies.
           - Robbie Deans creates history by becoming the first non-Australian to be appointed Coach of the Wallabies.


William Webb Ellis

1883 NSW Team

1888 NSW v England

1899 Australian Team

1908 SS Omrah

1949 Bledisloe Cup

1953 Aust v South Africa, Solomon chaired

1963 Australia v South Africa

1971 Protesters, Aust v South Africa, Sydney

1979 Bledisloe Cup


Playing Rugby