Rugby began in a small way in New Zealand, with a match between Nelson Football Club and Nelson College in 1870. The Nelson Football Club had previously played by Victorian (Australian) rules, which illustrates the fact that rugby was only one among a number of football codes played by clubs at this time. In Wellington, for instance, Victorian Rules Football was more popular than rugby until the late 1870s.
However, as time went on rugby football became more and more popular. By the end of 1890 at least 700 rugby clubs had been formed. Why did Rugby Football prosper while Victorian and Association Football declined? That's a very interesting question. There is still no convincing answer.
On the other hand............
1400-1800: Many different types of football - rugby league’s ancestors - are played throughout Britain. Unlike modern soccer, most football games allowed handling the ball. There are records of football games being played in future league strongholds such as Hull, Huddersfield, Rochdale, Whitehaven, Workington and York.
1823 - William Webb Ellis, a pupil at Rugby School, allegedly picked up the ball and invented rugby. But there is no evidence to support this myth - even the 1895 Inquiry, which immortalised Ellis found no proof. Running with the ball became common in 1830s at Rugby School and Rugby School football became popular throughout the UK in the 1850s and 1860s.
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