One Of The World’s Most Iconic Pieces of Sports Gear
We’ve seen them on the fields, we’ve owned and played with them among friends, and we’ve seen them locked up in trophy cabinets. The rugby ball remains as one of the world’s most recognisable icons, and has changed the sport world in more ways than people realise. While almost all the most popular sports in the world have some kind of ball that’s important for the gameplay, the rugby ball is unique amongst them thanks not just to its odd shape, but also to how it’s held such controversy in the world of rugby.
From its humble beginnings to dizzying heights, the rugby ball has always been a part of the sport, and has been the centre of some of the greatest sporting moments in recent history. The next time we’re watching a match or following a game on our Australian betting apps, we can take a moment to appreciate the long and interesting history of the humble ball that every player covets.
How It All Started
While not completely different to the balls we know today, the first iteration of the rugby ball was a different shape, resembling more of a plum than an oval. This was at a time when rugby was still in its infancy, and was starting to gain popularity around the United Kingdom. They didn’t have the more advanced synthetic fabrics and materials that we have today, so the first rugby balls designed were made up of pig’s bladders wrapped in a leather casing. The bladders would be inflated, and then the entire thing wrapped in strips of tough leather.
These rugby balls were first made by a man named Richard Lindon, who at the time was a shoemaker that was across the road from the first rugby school in history. Lindon had provided the school with footwear for both the staff and the players, but it didn’t take long before they realised there was a market for making high-quality playing balls.
Changing The Shape
The pig’s bladders proved to be a problem, and because they need to be inflated by mouth, diseases could easily spread to the person inflating the bladder, which is what happened to Lindon’s wife. This caused him to find a replacement for the bladder, and eventually he turned to an India rubber bladder. This was more successful than the bladders, and also made the balls much tougher, allowing them to see more time on the fields before becoming damaged.
Although the change did change the shape of the ball slightly, it still retained its similarity to a plum, which didn’t sit well with the players. They wanted something more unique to distinguish the game from others at the time, such as football. Lindon used this idea and created a more egg-shaped ball that used four panels to hold it together and provide the shape. This was a success, and for the first time in history, the oval-shaped ball that we all know and love saw its debut, almost 20 decades before the turn of the 19th century.
It would be in 1892 that the RFU would make it compulsory for all rugby teams to use this new type of ball, and it has remained as the shape of the rugby ball to this very day.