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Rugby Pictures

Rugby Union is our particular passion, and you will find more interesting old rugby pictures, rugby posters and images here to buy than anywhere else. Teams and tries, players and posters, action and ads, countries and counties from William Webb-Ellis onwards.

Remember that our rugby pictures and rugby posters, just like rugby players, come in all shapes and sizes, so you can have your picture at the size you need, and framed in any way you want. Click on the image below to reveal posters, photographs, prints, illustrations, cartoons and much more.

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Rugger: The Man's Game is the title of a splendid 1940s book by EHD Sewell and is our view of the Great Game.

Whether or not William Webb Ellis actually picked up the ball and ran with it in 1823 at Rugby School, it was about then, and there, that the game of rugby football was slowly evolving into something like its present form (actually it is rather more likely that he caught it and ran with it instead of calling a mark). After centuries of basic hooliganism in fields and streets chasing some sort of ball, and decades of slightly more (but not much) refined exercise for clean-limbed young chaps in England’s leading public schools, Rugby School drew up, and more importantly, wrote down, the Great Game’s first set of laws. We have the earliest known published illustration of the game here, Rugby at Rugby School, 1845 - or is it? Please let us know if you have an earlier one.

Each school played to its own rules and so attempts were made to codify the game. These mostly ended in favour of the dribbling, Association Football game (for the pansies who didn’t like charging, tripping, hacking and other such manly practices) until the Rugby Football Union were formed in 1871 and had to come up with some laws for their pick-up game against the Jocks in Edinburgh on Monday, 21st March 1871 (good tour that first one – and no worries for the toffs involved about getting back to work!). Before then some of the aforementioned Old Boys had formed clubs to remind themselves of the athletic delights of their schooldays. Debate rages over the actual holder of the title, but Lord Price is proud to have turned out a couple of times for most likely candidate for the Oldest Club in the World: Guys Hospital RC, probably founded in 1843.

We have some splendid illustrations of early rugger – twenty a-side, mostly forwards who spent much of the game standing upright pushing to no great effect. The backs were largely there for decoration, as actually passing the ball to them was seen as a tad effete. It wasn't until 1877 that international teams were reduced to fifteen a-side. Of course eventually we had to let the Colonies in on our invention, and so New Zealand, South Africa and Australia took up the Great Game, and seem to have become rather good at it. Hats (or perhaps caps) off to the Frogs though, they really know how to play with the true adventurous spirit of the game, and also how to fully entertain their rugby guests and tourists in true Gallic style.

Football in its various forms was painted and drawn from the very beginning, but it took the advent of mass-printed, popular illustrated magazines, led by the Illustrated London News, and its stable-mates, in the latter half of the 19th Century for such images to be widespread. And then came the books; Shearman’s 1887 Athletics and Football was the first, from which we have some wonderful old rugby pictures.

Towards 1900 it became possible at last to print colour cheaply in quantity, and magazines began to have some interesting covers. The legendary Edwardian sportsman C.B.Fry’s magazine (for ‘Boys and Old Boys’) had a wonderful series of sporting covers and the Lordprice Collection has one showing a Richmond player. But it was the 1920s and 1930s when colour illustration flowered as never before, with a rugby picture often gracing boys' comics, lifestyle magazines and advertisements.

It was a sad day in 1997 when the game turned professional, but times do change and at least you can relive those years of yore by perusing our splendid collection of pictures of rugby from the golden days when winning wasn't everything and even the top players were allowed to have fun.

For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name
He writes not that you won or lost, but HOW you played the game


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