The History of Rugby in France

Posted by Josh on 14th Sept 2023 in the blog in the french culture category

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As its name suggests, the game of rugby, or rugby football, as it used to be known, was invented by students at Rugby School, England, in 1823. The game didn't spread to the continent until the 1870s, when the sport was popularised in France by British residents.

As in England, there was no national league in France. Different rugby clubs sprouted independently, such as the English Taylors RFC and the Paris Football Club. In 1892, the first ever championship was held, between Racing Club de France and Stade Français, with the former winning 4-3. (If that sounds like a low score from both sides, it's because the scoring system has changed a bit over the years.)

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International Competitions

In 1900, the Second modern Olympic Games was held, and the host city was Paris. Rugby featured as one of the sports, and three countries entered teams: France, Great Britain and Germany. France took home the gold medal. The game was dropped from the Olympics after the 1924 games (again in Paris), but France had received more medals for the sport than any of the other nations competing. Rugby sevens will be played in the 2024 Olympics, which will take place in Paris.

Of course, France's rugby exploits nowadays are most famous within the framework of the Six Nations Championship. What you might not know is that the Six Nations began as four, or more specifically the Home Nations: England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The first tournament took place in 1872. France joined in 1910. (It would not be until 2000 that the Five Nations became Six, with the addition of Italy.)

It wasn't a smooth passage from four nations to six, as France was disqualified from participating in the tournament due to charges of violence within the team. The country was reinvited in 1939, but the outbreak of World War II put a halt to international rugby events, and it would not be until 1947 that France was able to play again. France has gone on to win the championship in 1959, 1993, 2002, 2006 and 2010, while they tied with England in 1954.

Rugby World Cup

The Rugby World Cup is a much more recent competition. The first tournament was held in 1987, and the World Cup has been held every four years since. Unlike the Six Nations, over 20 countries compete in the World Cup, from France and Fiji to Samoa and South Africa. Alongside hosting the World Cup in 2007, France co-hosted the tournament with England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland in 1991. It is currently hosting the world cup with games taking place in stadia all across the country. The final is due to take place on Saturday 28th October 2023

France hasn't yet won the World Cup - but that could all change this year. Which team are you supporting?

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