Rugby School Birthplace of the Game 1823 - 2023

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1823 Bursary

2023 Celebration Programme

Where Rugby all started

2023 marks the 200th anniversary of the game of rugby football; 200 years since William Webb Ellis took the ball in his arms and ran with it on The Close at Rugby School. Prior to this date the sport, known as football, was played much like Australian rules football is today. It was with a ‘fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time (William Webb Ellis) first took the ball in his arms and ran with it.’

Throughout 2023, Rugby School, along with the rugby world, will be celebrating this anniversary. We will be welcoming teams from a range of backgrounds and abilities to play on The Close, as well as hosting dinners, evenings and our annual Festival On The Close, which for 2023 will be named “With a Fine Disregard”, in honour of Webb Ellis.

Our year will be attended and watched by over 40,000 people from around the world.

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Rugby is a global family and at the very beginning of our family tree is Rugby School, the birthplace of the game. As we look ahead to 2023 and a celebration of 200 years of the sport, we are excited by the plans the school has to mark its central role in the development of a sport that is played by more than seven million people and enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.”

Alan Gilpin, World Rugby Chief Executive

“As Rugby School, where the story of William Webb-Ellis picking up the ball and running with it is chronicled, reaches this significant 200-year milestone in its history, the RFU President sends the warmest wishes of the Union for the school’s celebrations in 2023.  The history of the school and that of the RFU are intertwined and the many events, covering the whole spectrum of rugby and much more, planned to mark this momentous year are superb, and the RFU wishes them every success.”

-Nigel Gillingham, RFU President


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