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Some studies claim that the ancestor of rugby is the soule (or sioule), a sport very practiced in France in the Middle Ages. The soule indeed has characteristics in common with rugby, such as knappan in Wales, hurling in Cornwall and Ireland, calcio in Italy, which are played at the same time. But these games quickly died out at the end of the 18th century, unlike folk football which found refuge in English colleges2. The original variant was invented on the grounds of the main college in the city of Rugby3 (England). Legend has it that during a game of football in mid-1823, William Webb Ellis, a pupil of this college (the Rugby School3) and future pastor, carried in his arms the ball behind the opposing goal line while the rule is to push it on the foot. In reality, the origins of rugby are much more complex and fall within the context of the development of the practice of "collective" sports in the education of public schools, notably the Rugby School with its headmaster (director) Thomas Arnold, who aims in the 1830s to educate children from the upper classes (upper middle class and aristocracy). This British educator then relied on athletic sports, notably football rugby, a popular practice during country festivals and whose virile and warlike values ​​should allow these young people to be able to control themselves in a violent confrontation, to strengthen their bodies to better be able to subject it to Victorian morality. This pedagogy must also teach them to lead institutions and businesses. This Arnold sports practice is gradually spreading to other schools thanks to the pupils and teachers who have used Rugby4.

British colleges of the time each practiced a game of ball derived from the soule. Each college has its own rules and foot and hand play is common. The gesture of William Webb Ellis, to keep the ball in his hand, in a phase of play that does not allow it, gradually changed the rule of the college of Rugby. But with the appearance of the railway, the colleges will no longer be isolated and sports meetings will become possible. It is therefore necessary to agree on the rules to be adopted. We thus see in the first meetings the matches take place according to the rule of the receiving college. But very quickly the need arises to have more uniform rules. Quarrels arise between the supporters of a game favoring the foot (dribbling) and those who want to limit this game considered too violent (the game of the time differs from that practiced today). From this quarrel was born the Football Association and Rugby-Football named after their respective organizations5.

Rugby, English city of Warwickshire.

This practice, which is now the particularity of football played in the Rugby School, in other words the Rugby School rules or rugby football, will be codified for the first time in 1846 by the students, then on December 8, 1863, in Cambridge, by the students of this university, all former Rugby students. “Rugby-Football” was born. The writing of the rules allows the diffusion of the game and the Dublin University Football Club, founded in 1854, is the first club in the world to practice the Rugby School rules. In 1857, the rules were exported to Australia and the first club, the Sydney University Football Club, was founded there in 1863.