Rugby union is a popular team sport played in England.

History

Main article: History of rugby union

Governing body

Main article: Rugby Football Union

Competitions

The Guinness Premiership is the top level of competition, it is fully professional but has a salary cap in place. National Division One and National Division Two are the nest rungs down. National Division One has some fully profesional sides but most are semi-professional. Below this there are many regional leagues.

The Powergen Cup was the national knock-out competition but from 2005, it was changed into a competion only for Premiership and Welsh Celtic League teams. The Powergen Trophy is new knock-out competition but Premiership sides do not take part.

Popularity

Football (soccer) is without doubt the most popular team sport in England. Rugby union along with rugby league and cricket vies for the spot of England's second favourite.

Attendences at Guinness Premiership matches are broadly similar to those found in football's Championship. They are on the up and teams are having to move to new stadiums (often shared with a football team) or extend their existing stadium.

Historically rugby union was a particpatory sport rather than a spectator sport in England and attendences at club games was extremely low. Leicester Tigers for example averaged less than a hundred spectators in the 1970s. However, attendences at Twickenham for the national team have always been very high.

As games in the Six Nations Championship and Rugby World Cup have always been shown on network TV, a lot of people watch these games but don't follow club rugby. The average England rugby fan is not necessarily very knowledgeable as a consequence, many people watch national games with little knowledge of the laws of the game.

Statistics

Demographics

Rugby union has often been considered a 'posh' game. This is historically because due to a disagreement over what constitutes legitimate expenses in an amateur sport caused predominantly working class Northern teams to form their own organisation and sport rugby league. The amateur ethos made it difficult for players who could not afford to take time off work to play away games or go on tour.

Rugby union in England is associated with certain fee-paying independent schools such as Stoneyhurst school or Sedbergh school who provide many of the national players. It is also commonly played at Grammar schools, but Comprehensive schools tend not to play it.

Due to the split with most of the Yorkshire and Lancashire clubs, rugby union was more popular in the South and the Midlands than the North of England. This is changing somewhat with the relative success of Newcastle Falcolns, Sale Sharks and Leeds Tykes. Traditionally rugby union is strongest in the South West of the country. There are supposedly four teams represnting London, though none actually play in the capital, Harlequins come closest being based in Middlesex.

Current trends

The national team

Main article: England national rugby union team

England have enjoyed success from time to time with more Six Nations Championship titles and Grand Slams than any other nation. They are current World Champions and also made the final of the World Cup in 1991.

See also

References