Malibu RFC

Origin of the Game

Rugby—officially known as Rugby Union Football— s the original form of football (and the actual parent of American football. Rugby Football was derived from what is more popularly known in the U.S. as Soccer. It began at Rugby School in 1823 when a young player named William Webb Ellis became frustrated with kicking the ball around on the ground, picked it up and ran it into goal. The next time he tried it, two of his opponents “tackled” him into the ground as he crossed the goal, and a great tradition began.

Even in the 19th Century Rugby soon became popular everywhere in Europe and in many British Crown Colonies—wherever the culture was spread. Today, Soccer is known in the United Kingdom as a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans. And Rugby is looked upon as a “hooligan’s game played by gentleman.” So the tradition continues, and anyone who has played rugby football for any length of time will tell you that rugby is an international brotherhood, and that there is a closeness and a sense of fraternity in rugby that you will experience in no other sport.

Rugby is akin to American Football in that it is played on a pitch (or field) with goalposts similar in conformation to an American football field. A rugby pitch is 150 yards long by seventy-five yards wide. There are fifteen players on a side (or team)—eight forwards and seven backs—but there is only one referee. Play is fluid and flowing with a great deal of lateral passing and kicking forward. However with rugby, unlike American football, you can maintain possession of the ball as long as you can hang onto it. The only way you lose it is to have it taken away from you by an opponent, by kicking out of bounds (or “into touch”), or by getting a penalty against your team. In rugby, you score by touching the ball down in the opponent’s end goal (hence the etymological origin of the word, “touchdown”). A touchdown in rugby is called “a try,” and tries count for five points with conversions counting two.

In fact, English Rugby is the actual parent of American Football. Rugby football was brought intact to America in the 1860s and was beginning to catch on as a team sport there, when an engineer named Walter Camp redesigned it, reduced the size of the field, added five more officials, stopped the action with a series of plays called downs that ended when a player was tackled, and generally made the sport duller, slower, and more conducive to commercial breaks during frequent timeouts. (So that’s what happens when an engineer gets hold of anything!) Hence the birth of American Football; or what is known to the rest of the world as “Gridiron.”

Today Rugby, as opposed to League Rugby or “Aussie Rules” Rugby, is the second most popular field sport in the world after Soccer, and is played in every nation of the world, except Brazil where Soccer is the state religion. There are about 5,000 Rugby Clubs in the United States, nearly two thirds of those coming from U.S. Colleges and Universities. Rugby clubs include men’s clubs in several divisions, collegiate rugby in three divisions, youth leagues, and some women’s clubs.

Rugby is a fall and spring sport, with the fall season serving as a training season or “preseason,” and the spring season serving as a “cup” season where wins count in the records and are factored in the rankings.

Good rugby can be as high scoring and exciting to watch as any team sport in the world. And you can play it by participating in a league (called a union) that is represented in every country around the globe. California has over 120 such clubs. It is played all over Southern California under the auspices of SCRFU, the Southern California Rugby Football Union, and the USARFU [The United States Rugby Football Union].

As in all sectors of the US, the Southern California Rugby Football Union has five men’s divisions and three collegiate men’s divisions. The Mens’ Divisions, include “Super League,” Division I, II, III and Open Division. New clubs are set in the Open Division and are allowed to work their way up into higher divisions by playing winning, competitive rugby.

Malibu Knights RFC, founded in 2007 and being a relatively new Club, is in Division III, and has already earned a reputation for playing good, tough, competitive rugby.

History of Rugby in America

On May 14, 1874, Harvard University hosted Montrealís McGill University, in Cambridge, Mass., for what would be the first recorded rugby game on American soil. It was the first of three games proposed by McGill. The Harvard/McGill series sparked an interest on college campuses nationwide.

As American rugbyís popularity began to grow, rugby was soon included as a sport in four Olympic Games (1900, 1908, 1920, 1924), and the United States claimed victories in both the 1920 and 1924 Games. Shortly after the 1924 Olympics, however, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) removed rugby as an Olympic sport. Without the Olympic incentive, the sportís growth in America collapsed and the game remained dormant for the next half century.

However, during the 1960's and '70's, the sport enjoyed a renaissance. With this renewed interest there became a need for a national governing body to represent the USA in the international rugby community. In response to the need for a centralized national structure, four territorial organizations gathered in Chicago, Illinois, in 1975 and formed the United States of America Rugby Football Union (now known as USA Rugby) to serve as the game's national governing body.

Over 30 years later, USA Rugby is an official member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Rugby Board (IRB). The organization has approximately 65,000 members and is responsible for the development of the boys, girls, high school, collegiate and club athletic programs and, ultimately, the nine national teams representing the U.S. in international competitions. The current structure of USA Rugby comprises seven Territorial Unions and 34 Local Area Unions that compete for Regional and National Championships.