Whether or not William Webb Ellis
actually "took the ball in his arms and ran with it" in 1823 at
, it was about then, and there, that the game of rugbyfootball was slowly
evolving into something like its present form. After centuries of basic
hooliganism in fields and streets chasing some sort of ball, and decades of
slightly more (but not much) refined exercise for cleanlimbed young chaps in
England's leading schools, Rugby School drew up, and more importantly, wrote
down, the Great Game's first set of rules.
Each school played to its own rules and so attempts were made to
codify the game. These mostly ended in favour of the dribbling, 'Association
Football' game (for the pansies who didn't like charging, tripping, hacking
and other such manly practices) until the RFU were formed in 1871 and had to
come up with some rules for their pick-up game against the Jocks in
Edinburgh on Monday, 21st March 1871 (good tour that first one - and no
worries for the toffs involved about getting back to work!).
The 'Last Scrimmage' from 1871 is a good illustration of early
rugger - 20-aside, mostly forwards who spent most of the game standing
upright pushing to not much effect. The backs were largely there for
decoration, as actually passing the ball to them was seen as a tad effete.
As Tim Cunis will tell you, the Old Paulines were founded in that very year,
and the Old Pauline B XV still play that way!
Football in its various forms was painted and drawn from the very
beginning, but it took the advent of mass-printed, popular illustrated
magazines, led by the Illustrated London News (The Last Scrimmage), in the
latter half of the 19th Century for such images to be widespread. And then
came the books; Shearman's 1887 Athletics and Football was the first, from
which Collared is taken.
Towards 1900 it became possible at last to print colour cheaply
in quantity, and magazines began to have some wonderful covers. The
legendary Edwardian sportsman C.B.Fry's magazine (for 'Boys and Old Boys')
had a splendid series of sporting covers including the one shown, presumably
player. But it was the 1920's and '30's when colour illustration flowered as
never before, with rugby used for boys comics (The Try), lifestyle magazines
(My Home) and advertisements (Bovril). After 1945 the quality of
photographic printing improved in leaps and bounds, and the advent of colour
photography especially rather pushed illustration to the side - except, of
course, for cartoons….but they will have to await another issue.