William Webb Ellis, alleged inventor of Rugby, was born on this day in 1806. The Rugby World Cup trophy is named for him, the William Web Ellis Cup. We next compete for it in Japan 2019.
In the History of Rugby written by Edmund Van Esbeck, the retired Irish Times Rugby Columnist, he surmises that Ellis learned about the game in Ireland. His father was a Cavalryman and was stationed for a time in Ireland. The young Webb Ellis would have seen the local Irish lads play Cás, the gaelic version of football, which uses hands as well as feet.
It was only natural then, when he attended Rugby school, that he should take the ball in hand and run the field to score. Rugby school adopted the new style and set the first laws of the game.
Today tiny little Ireland play the mighty United States of America. On the rugby field an island of less than 7 million people take on a nation of over 327 million people. What hope do we have?
While we wait for the Kick Off here is a rugby poem by an ex-lawyer turned poet. It’s a poem in the tradition of Banjo Patterson, the bushmen and the diggers.
Why we play the game; by Rupert McCall
When the battle scars have faded
and the truth becomes a lie,
when the weekend smell of liniment
could almost make you cry,
when the last ruck’s well behind you
and the man who ran now walks,
it doesn’t matter who you are,
the mirror sometimes talks.
Have a good hard look son
that melon’s not so great
the snoz that takes a sharp turn sideways
used to be dead straight.
You’re an advert for arthritis,
you’re a thorough bred gone lame
and you ask yourself the question;
why the hell you played the game?
Was there logic in the head knocks
in the corks and in the cuts?
Or did common sense get pushed aside
for manliness and guts?
And do you sometimes sit and wonder
how your time would often pass
in a tangled mess of bodies
with your head up someone’s arse
with a thumb hooked up your nostril
scratching gently on your brain
with an overgrown Neanderthal
rejoicing in your pain?
Mate, you must recall the jersey
that was shredded into rags
then the soothing sting of dettol
on a back engraved with tags.
Now it’s almost worth admitting
although with some degree of shame,
that your wife was right in asking
why the hell you played the game.
But then with every wound reopened
as you grimly reminisce it
comes the most compelling feeling yet
Christ! you bloody miss it.
You see, from the first time that you lace a boot
and tighten every stud
that virus known as rugby
has been living in our blood.
When you dreamt it
when you played it
all the rest took second fiddle
and now you’re standing on the sideline
but your heart’s still in the middle
and no matter where you travel
you can take it as expected
there will always, always be a breed of people
If there’s a team mate
then you’ll find him
like a gravitational force
with a common understanding
and a beer or three of course.
And as you stand there telling lies
like it was yesterday old friend
you know that if you had the chance
you’d do it all again.
You see, that’s the thing with rugby
it will always be the same
and that my friends I guarantee you
is why the hell we play the game.