The History of Rugby as an Olympic sport
Rugby has a long and storied history, but it’s only recently become an Olympic sport.
The first rugby match was played in 1871 between England and Scotland, and it was a brutal affair. The players wore no pads or helmets, and there were no rules; they could literally kick at each other’s heads if they wanted.
The sport grew in popularity throughout the British Empire and by the turn of the century, rugby had become a popular sport around the world. In 1895, the International Rugby Football Board (now called World Rugby) was founded.
The sport made its Olympic debut at the 1900 Paris games. Three National Olympic Committees (NOCs) entered teams at the 1900 games, with the gold medal going to hosts France which defeated both Great Britain and Germany.
The game was subsequently featured at the London Games in 1908, the Antwerp Games in 1920 and the Paris Games in 1924.
Rugby’s reputation suffered as a result of the crowd trouble during the 1924 Olympic Final and the pitch invasion that followed. This was, however, only one of the reasons for the demise of rugby as an Olympics sport. Other contributing factors were the difficulty in attracting enough teams to make it a competitive event, the trend towards selecting more individual and women’s events to add to the Games, and the resignation of Baron Pierre De Coubertin, who was a key supporter of rugby, as head of the Olympic Movement in 1925.
Numerous attempts to reinstate the sport in the Olympic program have been made since then. A breakthrough was finally made during the IOC session in Copenhagen in October 2009, when it decided to include the 7s version of the sport in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The sport featured in the Olympic Games that year and the following Olympics in 2020.