Grassroots clubs will get their celebrations as English rugby turns 150

Parties on hold, but chief executive Bill Sweeney looks forward to a bright future for the sport...

Grassroots rugby will gets its celebration. Photo: David Dales

The Rugby Football Union is marking the 150th year of English rugby throughout 2021.

Action may be on hold for clubs such as Boston RFC at present, but RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney believes that the past 10 months have only helped the sport display its spirit and strength - and has promised big grassroots celebrations in the future.

“One hundred and fifty years of rugby union in England is a momentous landmark and is taking place during one of the most challenging times in our history,” he said.

“I do not think anybody could have predicted that the RFU would see out its 150th anniversary in the midst of a global pandemic.

“The recent challenges have shone a light on the spirit and strength of rugby union but the community game is more than a game, it’s a network, it’s a family, a way of life and it will continue to thrive across England for the next 150 years and beyond.

“I look forward to celebrating with the grassroots game and fans at a later date.”

On January 26, 1871 at the Pall Mall Restaurant on London’s Regent Street, a meeting took place between representatives from 21 clubs, many of which are still in existence today.

The representatives were young men, the average age being 23, many were club captains and together they created the world’s first governing body for rugby football.

At the meeting 20 players were also selected to represent England in the first ever international contest on March 27, 1871 following a challenge of an international fixture issued by Scotland.

Activities to mark the anniversary include:

The creation of a heritage rose with artwork by renowned artist Chris Wormell taking inspiration from the very first rose featured on the caps of the 1871 team.

A commemorative 150th anniversary book celebrating a century and a half of England Rugby.

In partnership with Harkness Roses, England Rugby will launch a commemorative rose on February 1.

A limited-edition heritage kit, created by official technical kit partner Umbro and England Rugby.

The RFU will also look to celebrate its momentous milestone further with the community game and with supporters back at Twickenham when it is safe to do so.

RFU President Jeff Blackett said: “I am immensely proud to be the President of the Rugby Football Union in our 150th anniversary season.

“The RFU and rugby in England has such a rich history and it is thanks to the vast amount of work put in by people within the rugby community all over the country.”