Rugby union had a defined set of rules two years before American football, in 1871 rather than 1873, although they bore little relation to present rugby regulations. The first international match played by the United States national team was a loss to England at Philadelphia on July 4, 1903.
The two sports have some similarities but also important differences. They are both ball games that require fields for play and involve an array of players on each side. But while rugby is an open-field sport, football is a more enclosed one. In addition, there is no offside rule in rugby, only illegal forward passes can be called back. A player is out of bounds if he enters his own end zone without touching the sideline; he is then considered dead until he touches the ground inside its border.
In American football, by contrast, a player is out of bounds if he leaves his own end zone; a player is not out if he returns to the field of play within the opposing end zone. Also, unlike rugby, where you can score any time you take the ball into your hands, points are only awarded after advancing the ball into the opposition's end zone. You need a touchdown to win, but you can also score extra points to increase your lead.
Indeed, both association football and rugby football arose from the various folk and country sports that had been played for generations, and were even referred to as "football" in texts dating back to the 13th century. However, rugby was the first sport to have an official set of rules. It is therefore the older game.
Rugby football was invented in 1823 by William Webb Ellis (who also invented cricket). It became very popular in England where it is still played today. The term "rugby" comes from a French word meaning "ball and stick" because the original ball used in the game was made of leather with metal spikes on it. This probably explains why modern versions of rugby are sometimes called "leathermen's games" or "games of violence".
Football, on the other hand, was originally a men's only game developed in England. It too has its own set of rules but it is generally believed that they were based on those of rugby. Women's football began to be played about a decade after rugby, and today is widely practiced throughout the world.
Both football and rugby are members of the family of games known as "kick 'n' rush" because each player is given a number of kicks at a ball which is kicked off as in soccer or American football or punted into play as in rugby.
There are some differences between the two games.
The origins of the football code, afterwards known as rugby union, can be traced back to three events: the first set of codified regulations in 1845, the decision of the Blackheath Club to quit the Football Association in 1863, and the founding of the Rugby Football Union in 1871. Originally, the code was simply known as "rugby football." In 1872, it became clear that the new sport would be called "rugby," so the name "football" was dropped.
Rugby is a game that originated in England and has become popular worldwide. The earliest written evidence of the game dates back to 1823, but it is believed to have been played long before that time. The original name for the game was "rugger" or "ruggage." The early versions of the game were very similar to modern soccer; however, over time certain changes were made to make the game more aggressive and physical. These changes included introducing a try instead of a goal and reducing the number of players on each side from 11 to 9. The last major change came in 1895 when the forward pass was introduced by J.P. Morgan into his game at University College, Oxford. This makes him the first player to ever receive the ball out wide and then pass it on to a teammate.
By the late 1800's, rugby had become very popular at university campuses throughout England. In 1883, a group of students from the University of Cambridge traveled to North America for the purpose of studying this new sport.
Heisman and Camp were essential in modifying the regulations to more nearly resemble the current rules of American football in the first decade of the twentieth century. Rugby expanded in the early 1900s, aided in part by the American football crisis of 1905–06, which was caused by the idea that American football was a violent sport. The creation of the National Football League in 1920 further enhanced the growth of rugby in the United States.
Rugby began in the United States when Yale University students played English soccer (a game very similar to rugby) during winter vacations from 1872 to 1890. The Americans gradually adapted some of the rules of rugby (such as having a three-point line and keeping the ball in play) until 1970 when they completely adopted the modern game we know today.
By the late 1800s, American football was becoming popular throughout the country. In 1898, Princeton and Yale met on a field in Philadelphia that contained strips of hardwood pavement set into the grass like fields today. The game was close at halftime, but the Tigers won 10-3. After this victory, members of both teams went back home to tell their friends about this new game that was being played in Europe and England. Soon after, other colleges began adopting the European version of the game instead of American football.
In 1903, an American football league was formed with Harvard as its first member team. This marks the beginning of what is now known as the "modern era" of American football.