Updated: 3 Jun 2020
Rugby football is a collective name for the team sports of rugby union and rugby league, as well as the earlier forms of football from which both games evolved. Canadian football, and to a lesser extent American football were also broadly considered forms of rugby football but are seldom now referred to as such. Rugby football started about 1845 at Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, England, although forms of football in which the ball was carried and tossed date to medieval times. Rugby split into two sports in 1895, when twenty-one clubs split from the Rugby Football Union to form the Northern Rugby Football Union (later renamed the Rugby Football League in 1922) in the George Hotel, Huddersfield, over broken-time payments to players who took time off from work to play the sport, thus making rugby league the first code to turn professional and pay players. Rugby union turned professional one hundred years later in 1995, following the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. The respective world governing bodies are World Rugby (rugby union) and the Rugby League International Federation (rugby league). Rugby football was one of many versions of football played at English public schools in the 19th century. Although rugby league initially used rugby union rules, they are now wholly separate sports. In addition to these two codes, both American and Canadian football evolved from rugby football in the beginning of the 20th century.