Saturday, November 22, 2008

Myth of the Day: William Webb Ellis invented rugby football

When England and South Africa contested the rugby world cup final last autumn they were playing for the Webb Ellis Cup.

Why? Because, as everyone knows, when a schoolboy at Rugby, William Webb Ellis picked up the ball during a game of football and ran with it, thus inventing a new sport.

Except that, as a website put together by Peter Shortell proves, he almost certainly didn't.

Webb Ellis, who died in 1872, the year after the Rugby Football Union was formed, was probably unaware of his supposed role in the invention of the game, much as Harry Calder almost died without knowing he had once been one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year.

Anyway, good luck to England in the return match today. I was once the teenage Martin Johnson's ward councillor here in Market Harborough.

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