|+ style="font-size: larger;"||Rugby Union|
|Originated||1845, Rugby, Warwickshire, England|
|World Governing Body||International Rugby Board|
|Major Competitions||The World Cup|
Rugby union is a competitive outdoor contact sport, played with an oval ball, by two teams of 15 players. It is one of the two main codes of rugby football, the other being rugby league. There is also a seven-a-side variant named rugby sevens, which is played under modified laws.Rugby union is most often referred to as simply rugby. It may also be known by the slang or colloquial term rugger, a corruption of the word rugby, although this term has declined in use. 
See main article: History of rugby union. Most people believe rugby started when William Webb-Ellis picked up a football in 1823 and ran with it, at Rugby School, Rugby, England, hence the name of the sport. Although this tale is likely to be apocryphal, the trophy played for every four years at the Rugby World Cup is named after him.
The code of football later known as Rugby Union can be traced to three events: the first set of written laws in 1845; the Blackheath Club's decision to leave the The Football Association in 1863 and; the formation of the Rugby Football Union in 1871. The code was originally known simply as "rugby football"; it was not until a schism, in 1895, which resulted in the separate code of rugby league, that the name "rugby union" was used for the game itself.
See also: International Rugby Board and Timeline of foundation of national rugby unions. The recognised international governing body of rugby union (and associated games, such as sevens) is the International Rugby Board (IRB). The IRB headquarters are located in Dublin, Ireland.
Six regional associations are members of the IRB; these are:
National unions oversee rugby union within individual countries. These are affiliated both with the IRB and with their respective regional association.
Rugby union has established itself as a popular sport for both spectators and participants, particularly in Australia, Argentina, England, Fiji, France, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Bermuda, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Romania (and Moldova), Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Tonga and Wales.
Other places with lasting traditions in rugby, albeit as a minority sport in most cases, include Namibia, Zimbabwe, the USA, Canada, Sri Lanka, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Uruguay, Chile, Germany, Belgium, Russia, Portugal, Spain, Papua New Guinea and numerous African countries. For example, the United States are the current Olympic gold medalists, winning the event at the Paris Olympics in 1924, which was the last year rugby was played at the games. There are now moves to have rugby reinstated as an Olympic sport, in the sevens format. Large numbers of players are active in North America, and the national teams of Canada and the USA regularly qualify for World Cups. Japan, also a country with many registered players, unsuccessfully bid to host the 2011 World Cup, narrowly losing a vote to selected host New Zealand. Japan will again bid to host either the 2015 or 2019 events. They will be joined in the bidding process by Italy, where the sport has gained in popularity following acceptance into the Six Nations in 2000. Neither country has hosted a World Cup to date, and are viewed by some fans of the game as opportunities for rugby union to extend its reach. Part of the sport's appeal is that it is played in many different styles in these diverse countries. This is partially due to the varying interpretations of the laws of the game, but perhaps the greatest influence is the playing environment created by local climates.
The International Rugby Board (IRB), founded in 1886, governs the sport worldwide and also publishes the game's laws and rankings. There are currently 95 full members and eight associate member countries. According to IRB figures, rugby union is played in over 100 countries spanning six continents by men and women of all ages. The IRB controls the Rugby World Cup, the Women's Rugby World Cup, Rugby World Cup Sevens, IRB Sevens World Series, Junior World Championship, Junior World Trophy, Nations Cup and the Pacific Nations Cup. It holds votes to decide where all of these events shall be held, except in the case of the Sevens World Series. For that competition, the IRB contracts with several national unions to hold individual events.
Records of women's rugby go back over 100 years - the first mentions of the game being in New Zealand in 1891 and France ten years later. In the past 30 years the game has grown in popularity among female athletes, and, according to England's RFU, is now played in over 80 countries.
See also: List of rugby union competitions. The most important tournament in rugby union is the Rugby World Cup, a men's tournament that takes place every four years between the elite national rugby union teams. South Africa are the current world champions, winning the 2007 tournament held in France. They beat England, who were attempting to become the first country to retain the title, having won it in 2003. The fact that four different countries have won the World Cup confirms the level of competition in the tournament, creating intense interest from supporters, the media and major sponsors. Major international competitions in the northern and southern hemisphere are the Six Nations Championship and the Tri Nations Series, respectively.
The Six Nations is an annual competition involving northern hemisphere teams , , , , and . Each country plays the other five once, the modern tournament traces its roots to the first ever international game, when England lost by one goal to Scotland at Inverleith Park, adjacent to Raeburn Place, Edinburgh in 1871. In the 1880s, Wales and Ireland joined to create the Home International Championships. France joined the tournament in the 1900s and in 1910 the term Five Nations first appeared. However, the Home Nations (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) excluded France in 1931 amid a run of poor results, allegations of professionalism (rugby union was officially amateur until 1995) and concerns over on-field violence. France then rejoined in 1939-1940, though World War II halted proceedings for a further eight years. France has played in all the tournaments since WWII, the first one of which was played in 1947. In 2000, Italy became the sixth nation in the contest and their games, played at stadio Flaminio, is the smallest venue in the tournament.  Argentina have long been rumoured to be interested in joining the 6 Nations but their geographical location and various other factors combine to make it look extremely unlikely, in the near future anyway. Since their strong performances in the 2007 World Cup a number of commentators believe they should join the Tri-Nations with New Zealand, Australia and World Cup champions South Africa.
The Tri Nations is an annual international rugby union series held between the southern hemisphere teams of , New Zealand and . The series was initially played on a home and away basis with the three nations playing each other twice. In 2006 a new system was introduced where each nation plays the others three times rather than two. In 2007 the teams played each other only twice, as it was a World Cup year. The IRB had been brokering a deal which could have seen admitted to the competition in 2008, but it was later confirmed that the Tri Nations would not be expanded until at least 2010. Amidst all the rugby union competitions are also the autumn and summer Tests, which take place between September to December and June to August. These are played by the major rugby union nations on a home or away basis.
Rugby union was played at the Olympic Games in 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924. As per Olympic rules, the nations of Scotland, Wales and England were not allowed to play separately as they are not sovereign states. Rugby Sevens has been played at the Commonwealth Games since 1998.
England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa
Pacific Nations Cup
Fiji, Japan, Junior All Blacks (New Zealand A team) or New Zealand Maori, Samoa, Tonga, Australia A (as of 2007)
France A, Italy A, Romania, Russia, Scotland A, Uruguay
Women's International Rugby began in 1982. Over six hundred women's internationals have now been played by over forty different nations. As well as the women's World Cup event (which takes place every four years), there are also other regular tournaments, including a Six Nations run in parallel to the men's competition.
Recently, there has also been a movement to include a Nations Cup Championship for the Senior Women's sides. The inaugural event takes place in August 2008 at Esher RFC in London, England. The tournament features England, USA and Canada. The inaugural U20 Women's Nations Cup took place in Oakville, Ontario and included Canada, Wales and England, with a Canada 'A' also playing supplemental matches with the two Home Nations countries. The England U20's took the tournament in the final game during an unabated, 90 minute, torrential downpour.