The Origins Of Rugby League: When Was It First Invented?

man holding rugby ball

The Origin of Rugby League

Rugby league is a fast-paced, physical sport that has been played in many countries since its invention. But what most people don’t know is where this thrilling game came from and when it was first invented. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the history of rugby league to answer the question: When was rugby league invented?

The Origins of Rugby Football

Rugby football can be traced back to 1823 in England, when William Webb Ellis first picked up a ball during a soccer match and ran with it instead of kicking it. This event quickly caught on as an alternative form of football, soon becoming known as “rugby” after the school he attended – Rugby School in Warwickshire. By 1845, rules were codified for the game, and by 1880 there were dozens of clubs playing competitively across England.

The Birth of Rugby League

By 1895 there had been several attempts to professionalize rugby union but none had gained traction until August 29th that year when 21 Northern English clubs officially broke away from the English Union and formed their own professional association – The Northern Union (now known as The Rugby Football League). This new version became known as “rugby league”, with teams now allowed to pay players wages so they could play full-time without other jobs interfering with their training or matches. It also changed some key rules, like reducing teams from 15 players to 13, which made games faster paced and more dynamic than before.


Rugby league has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1895 when 21 northern English clubs left the English Union to become professionally organized under the name ‘Northern Union’ (now called The Rugby Football League). Today this exhilarating sport continues to captivate audiences around the world thanks largely due its modernized rules making it one of the fastest growing sports globally – all tracing back to one man’s bold decision over 125 years ago!