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Until 1885, the laws of rugby football were made by England, as the founder nation. However, following a disputed try in an international between Scotland and England, letters were exchanged, in which England claimed that they made the laws, and the try should stand.[1] In 1885, as part of the Home Nations Championship Scotland refused to play England. Following the dispute, the home unions of Scotland, Ireland and Wales decided to form an international union whose membership would agree on the standard rules of rugby football. The three nations met in Dublin in 1886, though no formal regulations were agreed upon. On the 5 December 1887, committee members of the IRU, SRU and WFU met in Manchester and wrote up the first four principals of the International Rugby Football Board. England refused to take part in the founding of the IRFB, stating that they should have greater representation, as they had more clubs.[5] The England Union also refused to accept the IRFB as the recognised law maker of the game.[5] This led to the IRFB taking the stance of member countries not playing England until they joined. In 1890, England joined the IRFB.[1] The same year, the IRFB wrote the first international laws of rugby union.

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In 1893, the IRFB was faced with the divide between amateurism and professionalism, which was nicknamed the "Great Schism". Following the introduction of working class men to the game in Northern England, clubs began paying "broken time" payments to players, due to the loss of earnings from playing on a Saturday.[7] Cumberland County Union also complained of another club using monetary incentives to lure players, leading to the IRFB conducting an enquiry. The IRFB was warned by all the chief clubs in Lancashire and Yorkshire that any punishment would lead to the clubs seceding from the union.[7] The debate of broken time payments ultimately led to the 22 leading clubs in Yorkshire and Lancashire to form the Northern Rugby Union, a sport today known as rugby league football.

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It is thought that in the late 1950s the IRFB was presented with the ideas of a world championship.[8] In 1983 the New Zealand Rugby Union and Australian Rugby Union each proposed hosting such a tournament. The following year the board committed to conduct a feasibility study. A year later there was another meeting in Paris, and the Union subsequently voted on the idea. It was the South African Rugby Union's vote that proved to be crucial in setting up a tied vote, as they voted in favour, even though they knew they would be excluded. English and Welsh votes were then changed, and the vote was won 10 to 6.[8]
[edit] Olympics
See also: Rugby union at the Summer Olympics

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The sport of rugby union has been played at the Summer Olympics on four occasions, with the last being in 1924. The winners, and thus the reigning champions, were the U.S. team. Rugby union made one more appearance as a demonstration event but was then removed from the Games. The IRB has most recently been very keen to see it return to the Games and is adamant that the sport (specifically referring to rugby sevens) satisfies every respect of the criteria set out in the Olympic Charter.

The main problem for reintroducing the 15-man game to the Olympics is the 7-day turnaround required by IRB regulations for players to rest between games. Since the Olympics only officially run for 16 days, with only slight expansions allowed to accommodate sports such as football, this effectively makes it impossible to conduct a 15s tournament within the current Olympic schedule. This limitation does not apply to sevens, as games last only 14 minutes (20 in championship finals) instead of the 80 minutes in the 15s game. All of the events in the current IRB Sevens World Series, which feature a minimum of 16 national teams, are conducted within a single weekend.

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But in furthering the IRB cause, the International Rugby Board became an International Olympic Committee Recognised International Federation in 1995, marked by a ceremonial signing by President Juan Antonio Samaranch prior to a match between Wales and South Africa in Cardiff.[9]

The IRB cites rugby union's global participation, with men playing the game in well over 100 countries, with women playing in over 50 as well; the IRB's compliance with the World Anti-Doping Code; and that a rugby sevens tournament could be (and generally is) accommodated in one stadium and is relatively inexpensive to play.[9] Not only is the sevens game successful in the context of the Sevens World Series and World Cup Sevens, it is also very successfully played in the Commonwealth Games; the sevens tournament at the 2006 Games in Melbourne set all-time attendance records for a sevens tournament.

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As a result of this the IRB have applied to the International Olympic Committee for a sevens tournament to form part of the olympics. If this were to happen, sevens would first be played in the 2016 olympics. However, the inclusion of sevens in the olympics would, most likely, see the end of the Rugby World Cup Sevens as a tournament, so a to only have one worldwide sevens spectacle every four years. The Sevens World Series would probably remain and become the qualification event for the games.
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Date: 17-10-2009
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