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17 October 2014

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Rugby

The first international rugby match

On the 8th of December 1870 a letter appeared in the pages of “The Scotsman” and “Bell's life”, a London magazine inviting footballers from England to participate in a match played by the “Rugby Rules”.

The challenge followed an “International” played by the Association rules in March at the Oval in London. This match had been played between an English side and a group of “Exiles” many of whose connection with Scotland was tenuous to say the least. A second attempted match in November, where a representative side from Scotland was this time sought, was widely ignored as Association Football had still to establish the strong hold over Scottish society, which we take for granted today. At the time there were only four clubs in Scotland playing the Association rules, Queens Park, Thistle, Hamilton and Airdrie. The majority of football clubs played by the Rugby code and there was a sense of grievance felt that Scotland would be at a disadvantage playing by a set of rules with which these clubs were familiar.

It was against this background that the representatives of West of Scotland FC, Edinburgh Academical FC, Merchistonian FC, Glasgow Academical FC and St. Salvator FC (St. Andrews) offered the match.
“…with a view of really testing what Scotland can do against an English team we, as representing the football interests of, hereby challenge any team selected from the whole of England, to play us a match, twenty-a-side, Rugby rules, either in Edinburgh or Glasgow,…”

This challenge openly laid was ignored by the Football Association but the gauntlet was picked up appropriately enough by Blackheath, one of London's oldest clubs. Only 7 years earlier Blackheath had led a walk out from the inaugural meeting of the Football Association. There had been a disagreement over the rules to be adopted. Surprisingly not over the issue of handling the ball, but over the issue of “hacking”. The challenge accepted, the English started to organise the selection of the 20 players who would be the first to wear the famous “red rose”.

North of the Border a date was set, Monday 27th March 1871, and preparations were made. The match was to be played in Edinburgh and the Academical Cricket Club were approached to lease the ground. Raeburn Place was given it's role as the scene of the first ever International match. The Scots committee decided to play a couple of trial matches in Edinburgh and Glasgow in order to select a side truly representative of Scotland.

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