Reverend William Webb Ellis (24 November 1806 – 24 January 1872) was a British Anglican clergyman and the alleged inventor of rugby footballwhilst a pupil at Rugby School. According to legend, Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it during a school football match in 1823, thus creating the rugby-style of play. Although the story has become firmly entrenched in the sport's folklore, it is not supported by substantive evidence, and although discounted by many rugby historians as an origin myth, the William Webb Ellis Cup is presented to the winners of the Rugby World Cup
In 1820 the game of Rugby was played rather like soccer, but players were allowed to catch the ball and kick it out of their hands. There were no limits to the number of players on each side, for example, School House v Rest of the School. In 1839, when Queen Adelaide visited the School, School House (75) played ‘the rest’ (225). To score a try would not gain points but would allow a team to ‘try’ to take a ‘drop at goal’ to score a point. With so many on each side this was hard to do and sometimes games would last up to five days. The Close itself was merely three rough fields, and it was not until the late 1850s that the ground was levelled. Sheep still grazed here until the early 1900s. No written rules at this time!
Rugby is the precursor of American football and has been played in the United States since about 1870. American football and basketball owes many of it’s characteristics to rugby. In fact, basketball was invented by James Naismith as an indoor alternative to rugby when the New England winters required an indoor game. Some of rugby's characteristics such as quick switches between attack and defense, ball handling and committing defenders to attack space are all found in basketball. Some people liken rugby to tackle basketball on grass. There are several obvious differences between rugby and American football. Rugby is played at a fast pace, with few stoppages and continuous possession changes. All players on the field, regardless of position, can run, pass, kick and catch the ball. Likewise, all players must also be able to tackle and defend, making each position both offensive and defensive in nature. There is no blocking of the opponents as there is in football and there are a maximum of seven substitutions allowed per team.