Wimbledon Rugby Football Club was founded in 1865. The club’s first recorded game was against Richmond on Wimbledon Common on the 28th October of that year. The rules of the game varied from club to club and as popularity for the sport grew, 21 rugby clubs came together to found the Wimbledon RFC was one of the founding members
of the RFU and the Captain of that time, L.J. Maton, singlehandedly wrote the first rules of rugby at his home in Wimbledon Village while he was out of action due to a broken leg. These rules have changed slightly over the years but the basic rules written in Wimbledon still stand today. L.J. Maton went on to become the third president of the RFU in 1875.
“A crowd of guys, mostly ex-Rugbeians, decided that they wanted to play rugby. They got hold of other people, and started playing rugby on Wimbledon Common. The Rose and Crown was chosen as a club house and changing rooms purely because it was closest to the Common where they actually played rugby.”
Noel Ahearne, Wimbledon Rugby Football Club
In 1875, Wimbledon RFC Captain and England International, H.J. Graham, received a letter from a rugby club in India that was closing due to lack of professional players. This club wanted a game to be played in its honour so it could be remembered in the history books of rugby. H.J. Graham told them to have a trophy made in Calcutta. To make the trophy the club withdrew their remaining funds (equivalent to £60) in silver rupees. They melted these coins down and made the Calcutta Cup. England and Scotland have played for this trophy every year since 1879. The sum of £60 would be equivalent to approximately £8,500 today.
Wimbledon RFC is one of nine founding clubs still in existence today. From the origins of the first rules written in Wimbledon, Rugby Union has developed into a worldwide sport. It is estimated that there are more than two million registered Rugby Union players in the UK today and more than 20 million worldwide. RFU, which still governs rugby in England, states that “the IRB Rugby World Cup is the third biggest sporting event in the world” and relates this success to “thriving school, university and club competitions across England and the world”. Another success factor is that regardless of size, shape, age or gender, there is a type of rugby and a level of competition that is right for almost everyone.