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More than forty-years after William Webb Ellis picked the ball up at Rugby School, the game found its way into English universities, and then into the newly established English athletic clubs. With more men and boys playing rugby, there emerged a consensus for a set of universal rules, particularly, to address the controversial habit of hacking (i.e., to kick another player in the leg).
The media – newspapers and the influential magazine Punch – called for rugby’s abolition, or, at least, to place itself under some respected control organization. At the same time, a challenge from Scotland to England, necessitated a common code of laws.
Two of the leading clubs, Richmond and Blackheath, invited the other clubs to a meeting at the Pall Mall Restaurant, London, on January 26, 1874. Participants came from Kings College, St. Paul School, Wellington College, Guy’s Hospital, Clapham Rovers, and other clubs. The reformers held sway with Richmond determined not to continue to play any club that dissented from the hacking ban.
Importantly, the meeting was well attended by Old Rugbeians who were called on often that evening to clarify how the game had been played at the school. Three alumni codified the Rugby Union Laws, which, in essence, listed six rules for the game:
- Hacking banished;
- Off-side rules initiated;
- No knock ons or forward throws;
- Ball thrown in from where it went out of bounds;
- After goal, ball brought out straight from goal line for conversion; and,
- Captains of both teams are sole arbiters of disputes.
Nine weeks after the formation of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the first international match was played at Raeburn Palace, Edinburgh, when Scotland won by a goal and a try to a try.
These Laws would change frequently each year, providently, one governing body (RFU and then the IRB) would determine for all rugby players in the world, how the game should be played.