The Oval World
A Global History of Rugby
The 2017 Six Nations rugby tournament concluded this weekend. England successfully defended its championship, despite losing the last match against a strong Ireland side in Dublin–England’s only loss of the competition. Meanwhile, the new Super Rugby season just began, with clubs traveling between Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and now Argentina and Japan. Later this year, women’s sides from twelve countries, including Spain, Canada, and Hong Kong, will compete in the Women’s Rugby World Cup. Meanwhile, here in the US, rugby for women and girls has boomed in recent years, with more than 400,000 participants on club, high school, and university teams.
And of course, that is all rugby union. Theres also the separate code of rugby league, which is most popular in northern England, New Zealand, and areas of Australia.
As historian Tony Collins explains in The Oval World: A Global History of Rugby (Bloomsbury, 2015), rugby not only has a worldwide reach, it has been influential in the development of other sports. American, Canadian, and Australian football all developed from rugby in the 19th century. Even ice hockey can trace its roots to the sport. Tonys award-winning book offers a raucous and readable account of how this game that began among students at Rugby School in the 1840s has become the global, commercialized sport of today.
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