Various games resembling modern football have been played at least since Roman times and probably long before in various countries around the world. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century in England that serious attempts were made to standardise the rules.
Ball games, sometimes involving hundreds of players with goals kilometres apart had been played in England since the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Edward 111, Richard 11, Henry 1V, Henry V111 and Elizabeth 1 all tried to ban such games.
In the early 1860s, a game resembling modern soccer, with eleven players on each side not being allowed to touch the ball with their hands, was being played at various centres including Oxford, Cambridge, Sheffield, Chester and Nottingham while rugby was played throughout much of the public school system. In October 1863, an attempt was made to create a single code from the two games by the establishment of a Football Association. The result was the irrevocable splitting of the two codes with the “soccer” group accepting the rules of “Association Football” while the rugby group formed their own “Union”.
The game of rugby was supposedly born when William Webb Ellis, while playing soccer at the Rugby School in 1823, picked up the ball and ran towards his opponents’ goal. Rugby quickly spread through Britain’s public schools and Oxford and Cambridge Universities. During this period, it was generally played only by the well-to-do who tended to look down on those who sought payment for sport; from this, a tradition of amateurism developed.
In 1871, the Rugby Football Union was formed to regulate the game.
Rugby spread with the British Empire to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa nut it was not until 1905 that the first fully sanctioned international game, between England and New Zealand, was played. Rugby was introduced into Argentina by British workers building a railway there and into Romania by students who learned the game while studying abroad.