Tag Archives: history of rugby

Excitement Builds for the Rugby World Cup 2011 and Reminds Us Of The History of Rugby

A week before the Rugby World Cup 2011 and we can see what a huge commercial event is has become. A quick visit to the official website and right there on the home page are not only the tickets – a semi-final ticket if you can get one has a face value of $300-$800 – but the merchandise too. If you want an All Blacks official jersey that will set you back a cool $180. That makes £40 for a premiership football shirt look like a bargain.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when to play for your club and your country was the main reward. It seems a long time ago, and well in fact it was. You have to go all the way back to the 1880s and 1890s when the debate about professionalism in rugby raged – not just about wages but a host of subjects. It was around then that we saw the break in the codes and it is fascinating to read the arguments, many of which will be replayed in bars and pubs around the world in the coming month. A rugby expert and close friend of Arthur Conan Doyle’s (creator of Sherlock Holmes) Bertram Fletcher Robinson fortunately put together a wonderful book bringing together the writings of all of the experts of the time called ‘Rugby Football in the Nineteenth Century’ and last year we re-published it (original copies had become very rare and sold for over US$200) with additions from modern-day commentators. The new version went down a storm and was nominated for Rugby Book of The Year. It prompted us to get more involved in rugby history and in October, in the middle of the World Cup we publish our second club history – Sunderland RFC entitled ‘One Among Many’. The first was from one of the oldest clubs in the world Clifton. Entitled ‘For College Club and Country‘ it was a wonderful project to be involved with and enabled us to meet several ex-England players and captains at the launch at the club. Sunderland’s launch comes up in a month’s time – again at the club.

These club histories remind us that rugby is a wonderful community sport and that there is more to the game than TV rights, tickets and merchandise. They are wonderful books to do as a publisher as they are full of both sport and local history, covering a dozen decades and with hundreds of photographs through the ages. The books mean a lot to the local fans, but are widely read by rugby fans all over the globe.

The Rugby History book from the 19th Century shows how much else has changed too – we particularly like (remember, written over 100 years ago) that differ ever so slightly from the modern game;

  • On Drinking –“Let a man satisfy his natural thirst by all means but – and on this I must insist – let him give up the drinks in between meals”.
  • On Training – “Early rising which means being down at a quarter to eight, so that there may be time for a sharp walk before breakfast at 8.30. That morning walk is of great importance. I don’t believe in running hard or taking any violent form of exercise. The short, quick walk is the best “pipe-opener” with which to start the day”. 
  • On Refereeing Decisions – “Should he make a mistake, ‘tell a lie and stick to it’ is the only policy possible”. 
  • On Rugby Balls – “Do not have a fresh ball for every match. The larger clubs have realised that a ball that has been frequently used is, if well cared for, far superior for passing, kicking, and dribbling than a new one”. 
  • On Weapons (from the rules of 1893) “No one wearing projecting nails, iron plates, or gutta percha on any part of his boots or shoes shall be allowed to take part in a match”.
There are dozens more gems in the book and, like us, you will no doubt wish that some of the traditional elements were still around.

As a little celebration of the World Cup, and a gentle reminder of the history of the game, we’ve put together the Rugby World Cup 2011 History pack featuring all three books – even the Sunderland one that won’t be released to the public for another month. You can get the package exclusively from our various websites MX Publishing UK (UK and Europe), MX Publishing USA and Sydney Passengers Australia. Type the code ‘rugby‘ at the basket to get a hefty discount as a reader of this blog.

Have a great World Cup.

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Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Rugby History


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Sunderland Rugby Club RFC History Book Makes Great Progress

One Among ManyKeith Gregson’s book on Sunderland Rugby Club is making good progress. It’s due for launchon the 10th October in time for the Rugby World Cup and is called ‘One Among Many – The story of Sunderland Rugby Football Club (1873) in its historical context

Keith told us this week;

‘This comes on the back of a book I’ve been doing on British sport in general. I am conscious of trying to produce a work that is both interesting and useful to those with an eye to wider sport history. So far so good as the club archives are throwing up fascinating material on the split over professionalism in the late nineteenth century, relations between the club and the RFU and the early development of schools and youth rugby. I hope this may act as a stimulus to other clubs to look at their past and to see if their experiences are similar or different from the Sunderland one.There are also useful lessons to be learned from the past in relation to running a rugby club as should become clear from the finished work’.

Keith’s published works over the years show that he is equally happy working as a popular historian as an academic one and he is trying to find a happy balance in this publication.An interesting challenge. You can contact him through his blog ‘History of Sunderland RFC‘ if you have interesting information for the book.

Following the popularity of the Clifton RFC History – ‘For College Club and Country‘ we are certainly looking forward to our second major club history. Sunderland won the publishing contract through a tough fought competition with Rugby World magazine.

The competition was formed after MX’s first rugby history book ‘Rugby Football in the 19th Century‘ was nominated for Rugby Book Of The Year 2010.

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Posted by on March 16, 2011 in Rugby History


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Rugby Football History – The Orgins vs The Game Today

I have to admit to being a late convert in life to the game of Rugby – well into my thirties. Coming from a football family I didn’t realise the huge gulf between the preening primadonnas and big money of the modern game of football, and the more gentleman’s game of rugby football. Every game I watch reinforces that it’s all about the game – not the hype around it.

It has been a delight to publish the re-release of ‘Rugby Football in the Nineteenth Century‘ originally published by the Isthmian Library back in the late 1800s when Rugby split into two codes. Here Graeme Marrs M.B.E comments on the book and how historian Paul Spiring has brought this amazing book back for today’s rugby fans:

It is both a privilege and a pleasure to write the Foreword to this fascinating addition to the library of Rugby Books. I am particularly delighted as Bertram Fletcher Robinson was a relation – admittedly much further up the family tree – but a relation nevertheless and one who obviously had the true ethos of the game very much in his heart.  I shudder to think what he would make of today’s game, with its professionalism and all the disadvantages that brings. I admit to being firmly in Will Carling’s ‘Old Farts’ camp. The ‘amateur’ game is for me, albeit one cannot stop progress.

Apart from family, I also connect with Bertram Fletcher Robinson in rugger terms.  He won three Rugby Football Blues for Cambridge University during the early 1890s:  today the Anti Assassins (periodically described as the poor man’s Barbarians!) play Cambridge University at Grange Road every year in the Lent Term:  I just happen to be the current Honorary Secretary of the AAs!

I can only describe this book as a thoroughly entertaining read – not only entertaining but instructive and it gives the reader a thorough insight into how the game was played and the spirit in which it was played at that time.  Paul Spiring has done a splendid job both in researching the subject and producing such a readable volume:  all credit to him.

I commend this book to all – one does not have to be a rugby enthusiast to derive enjoyment from the read, although it should be mandatory reading for all involved with the Rugby Football Union!

The book was released on the 16th February in Europe, USA, and Australia.

Rugby Football In The Nineteenth Century

Rugby Football In The Nineteenth Century

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Posted by on February 13, 2010 in Book Launches, Rugby History


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