Where and Why Rugby Matters

  • John Harris
Part of the Global Culture and Sport book series (GCS)


The sport of rugby union takes its name from a town in the middle of England. I lived there for a period in the mid-1990s and from the plaque at Rugby School which states how in 1823 William Webb Ellis ‘with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it’, to the museum where you could watch a rugby ball being hand stitched, this is largely what gives this small town its identity. The areas surrounding Rugby are those where association football is, just like in most other parts of the country, the dominant sport. England’s second city, Birmingham, is home to two premier league football teams, and other major football clubs are nearby. Living in the shadow of the association game is a constant of much of the history of rugby both before and during the professional age. Nearby Coventry were once a formidable power in English rugby but by the dawn of the professional age had witnessed years of decline and languished below the top-tier of the game (A. Smith, 1999). Within this chapter I briefly outline the history of the game and then provide a broad overview of where and why rugby matters. This is intended to serve as an introduction to better locate the sport in a wider perspective and provide some context to the discussion that follows.


Olympic Game Rugby League Open Professionalism Rugby Union Foundation Union 
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Copyright information

© John Harris 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Harris
    • 1
  1. 1.Kent State UniversityUSA

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