The Gentleman's Games: An alternate History of Rugby and Football


Part 1: The only sane choice...

At the end of the 19th century, the sport of rugby was on the brink of a civil war.

Founded by 22 influential clubs from Southern England on 26 January 1871, the Rugby Football union standardized the rules of the rugby game, formed by students of the university of the same name, and, for the longest time, was against payment of players and staff, as many influential members believed that it would corrupt the game much like it did with the "other" football.

many clubs, however, didn't share that viewpoint. the most staunch supporters of player payments were the clubs of northern England. they constantly made efforts to make the game accessible to the working class, in direct opposition to the bourgeoisie image the game had at that time, and, since most of those northern clubs were made of poor people who couldn't afford to miss time from work to play games, they felt they had no choice but to convince the RFU to listen to their pleas.

for a long while, the struggle continued, as the RFU believed the northern clubs to be heretics, while the northerners called the RFU upper class twits and an old boys club. there was even plans to found a rebel rugby union, based in the north, in order to turn the game pro, even if it meant being banned.

then, after years of conflict, top southern England clubs have decided to stop the infighting and invited the northern clubs so that they can open talks about professionalism, eventually leading to an all important vote in 1893. every concerned parties were nervous, as they knew this vote will shape the future of the sport for years to come...

Amidst a really close vote that ended 32 for to 28 against, the rugby Football union has decided to allow payment for players, finally ending years of internal strife.

this was a huge relief for the poorer northern clubs, and especially the players, who now could make a living playing the game, just like their compatriots in football.

with those news also came the announcement of a brand new competition for professional clubs only. after much debate, It has been decided that 22 clubs will take part in the Rugby Football League's first season, to begin play on September 7th, 1895, all chosen due to either their prestige, their influence on the game and their adequate facilities:

- Harlequins FC, From London
- Leicester FC, From Leicester (now Tigers)
- Blackheath, From London
-Northampton Saints, From Northampton
- Wasps RFC, From London
- Gloucester Rugby, From Gloucester
- Leeds St. John's (now Carnegie)
- Halifax RFC
- Wigan FC (now warriors)
- Manningham
- St. Helens
- Hull FC
- Oldham RFC
- Wimbledon Hornets
- Richmond FC
- Bradford FC (now Bulls)
- Warrington Zingari Football Club (now wolves)
- Clapham Rovers
- Huddersfield Athletic Club (now giants)
- Bristol Rugby
- Marlborough Nomads
- Leigh

the rest of the clubs were scattered to the second division, with the regional leagues representing the lower echelons of the brand new rugby pyramid..

the kickoff to the professional era of rugby began at 3PM at Leeds as st. John's took on manningham in front of 20.000 people, where the local favorites won by the score of 10-0.

despite this loss, Manningham would bounce back and become one of the major players in that inaugural league championship, winning the title by only one point over runner-ups Halifax. the southern clubs, expected to challenge for the titles due to their superior training conditions and quality of play, were stunned by those two northern clubs. nonetheless, Leicester, Northampton and the surprising Gloucester rounded up the top 5.

it was a tough season for many London based clubs, with wasps finishing mid-table in 13th and Harlequins crashing down in 17th place! Bristol barely survives relegation by 1 point over Wimbledon, with Huddersfield, Marlborough Nomads and punching bags Clapham Rovers (only 4 wins!) joining them down into the second division. Those 4 clubs will be replaced by Salford, Runcorn, Brighouse and Playoff Winners Gosforth FC (Now Newcaste Falcons).


1. Manningham 33W 0D 9L 66 PTS
2. Halifax 30W 5D 7 L 65 PTS
3. Leicester Tigers 24W 8D 10 L 56 PTS
4. Northampton Saints 27W 2D 13 L 56 PTS
5. Gloucester Rugby 22W 9D 11L 53 PTS
6. Oldham 21W 8D 13 L 50 PTS
7. Blackheath 24W 2D 16L 50 PTS
8. Hull FC 23W 3D 16 L 49 PTS
9. Richmond FC 21W 4D 17L 46 PTS
10. Wigan 19W 7D 16 L 45 PTS
11. Bradford 18W 9D 15L 45 PTS
12. Leeds St. John's 20W 3D 19L 43 PTS
13. Wasps 17W 5D 20L 39 PTS
14. St. Helens 15W 8D 19L 36 PTS
15. Leigh 15W 4D 23L 34 PTS
16. Warrington 14W 4D 24L 32 PTS
17. Harlequins FC 12W 8D 22L 32 PTS
18. Bristol 12W 7D 23L 31 PTS
19. Wimbledon hornets 13W 4D 25L 30 PTS
20. Huddersfield 10W 4D 28L 24 PTS
21. Marlborough Nomads 8W 8D 26L 24 PTS
22. Clapham Rovers 4W 8D 30L 16 PTS
...and we have a liftoff!

So yeah, this TL is based on a sport i really love: rugby!

and the main POD is, quite simply, the RFU listening to reason and actually listening to the northern club and proceeded to a vote to allow professionalism into the sport. this won't be the only POD, though. there will be plenty of PODs that will significantly change rugby's developement across the world, and will significantly affect American sports history!

next post will be the first few years of the Rugby Football League, the arrival of the sport across Europe and australasia and the struggle with keeping fans as Soccer starts to rise into public consciousness, prompting many influential forces in rugby to consider doing something about it...

this TL is done in collaboration with @Neoteros, who will take care of the soccer side of this sports universe.
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So l, just moved to Scotland from the US last week, and I love Rugby. Nimi won't say I get the game the way I do American Football or Soccer, but l I love it all the same. And with the 6 Nations starting up soon, I'm totally jazzed.

Which is a nice way of saying, I'm not particularly in the know, but I'm gonna dig this hardcore!
So l, just moved to Scotland from the US last week, and I love Rugby. Nimi won't say I get the game the way I do American Football or Soccer, but l I love it all the same. And with the 6 Nations starting up soon, I'm totally jazzed.

Which is a nice way of saying, I'm not particularly in the know, but I'm gonna dig this hardcore!

wow...first time I've ever heard an American moving out to Scotland, of all places! hope you'll enjoy it, there!
Meanwhile, in another country, at more or less the same time...


Udinese looking dapper in 1896

Treviso, Italy - 1896

The year before, the Italian Gymnastics Federation had included association football as a demonstration sport in the programme of one of their annual multi-sport events; however, the matches were played according to rules penned by school teacher Francesco Gabrielli; the following year, an actual tournament took place, the rules being those of the FA. [1]

The clubs taking place in the tournament were:

Three teams from the host city of Treviso: Trevigiana, Turazza and Vittorio Veneto;
Ferrara, representing the city of the same name, in Emilia-Romagna;
Udinese, representing the city of Udine, in Friuli;
Two clubs from the city of Torino, in Piedmont: F.C. Torinese and Internazionale Torino;
Alessandria, representing the city of the same name, in Piedmont;
Genoa, representing the city of Genoa, in Liguria. [2]

The details about the tournament are scarce, but we do know that Udinese then went on to defeat Genoa 2-0 in the final, winning what would be recognized as the first football championship in Italy; these are the teams that won the championship between the first edition in 1896 and the 1906 edition, played before the inaugural FIFA World Cup in England:

1896: Udinese (1)
1897: Alessandria (1)
1898: Ferrara (1) [3]
1899: Genoa (1)
1900: Genoa (2)
1901: Mediolanum (1) [4]
1902: Andrea Doria (1) [5]
1903: Genoa (3)
1904: Milan (1)
1905: Milan (2)
1906: Milan (3)

In 1898, the Federazione Italiana del Football was founded, with all the FGNI-affiliated teams joining the new organization. The first championships, before and after the founding of the FIF, consisted of regional tournaments whose winners then went on to play in a national knockout stage, a format that was then abandoned in favour of a national league after the 1913 season, due to foreign - chiefly English - influence.

The FIF would change its name to Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio in 1909.

The championships that took place between 1896 and 1913 were known as Torneo FGNI, Torneo FIF or Torneo FIGC, a name that reflected their nature, closer to that of a cup than that of a league.

[1] In OTL, they kept playing with the alternate rules, reason why for a while there were two football championships in Italy, only one of which got recognized as official; here, there's only one of them, that is therefore far more competitive than either of its OTL equivalents.
[2] Only the first 5 teams took part in OTL, even though the other teams existed already.
[3] The team eventually became known as SPAL in OTL.
[4] The team eventually folded in OTL, some of its members going to US Milanese, a team that was then merged with Inter during the Fascist era.
[5] The team, after a few mergers, eventually became known as Sampdoria in OTL.

OOC: I'm doing this with @kinnikuniverse's blessing, by the way, :p
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Galt F.C. - 1904 Olympic champions, that would wear the colours of Canada in the 1906 World Cup

Paris, France - 1904

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was founded in the rear of the headquarters of the Union Française de Sports Athlétiques at the Rue Saint Honoré 229 in Paris on 21 May 1904. It all began when, after Belgium and France met in the first official international match in Brussels on 1 May 1904, the idea of founding an international football federation began taking shape in Europe.

Carl Anton Wilhelm Hirschman, secretary of the Netherlands Football Association, turned to the Football Association: its president, John Hawley Edwards, expressed his interest, and sent the FA's secretary, F. J. Wall, to Paris, in order to discuss the founding of this association; Edwards' Irish, Scottish and Welsh equivalents followed his lead and, at the end of the month, secretaries from these associations found themselves in the capital of France: [1]

Belgium - Union Belge des Sociétés de Sports (UBSSA)
Denmark - Dansk Boldspil Union (DBU)
England - The Football Association (FA)
France - Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA)
Germany - Deutscher Fussball-Bund (DFA)
Ireland - Irish Football Association (IFA)
Netherlands - Nederlandsche Voetbal Bond (NVB)
Scotland - Scottish Football Association (SFA)
Spain - Madrid Football Club
Sweden - Svenska Bollspells Förbundet (SBF)
Switzerland - Association Suisse de Football (ASF)
Wales - Football Association of Wales (FAW)

Hirschman was elected first president of the FIFA; the second meeting took place the following year, with the Austrian, Hungarian and Italian associations having joined FIFA in the meantime: there was already talk about an international competition to take place in 1906. It would consist of four groups, and England would be in charge of organising the semi-finals and the final. There was a proposal to involve the best national teams and Lord Kinnaird, the FA's Vice-President, had already donated a trophy. [2]

The proposal was accepted; the tournament was to be held in London the summer of the following year. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Scotland, Switzerland and Wales agreed to take part right away, as they already had national teams of their own; reigning Olympic champions Galt F.C. then agreed, on the urging of Edwards, to represent Canada in the tournament.

[1] In OTL, Edwards had to quit football due to an injury, and died in his 40s. Here, he's not injured, he keeps playing, and after his retirement he climbs the ranks of the FA; in OTL, Hirschman was ignored by the FA, prompting his French equivalent Guérin to try again without the FA's support.
[2] A bit of irony, since in OTL Lord Kinnaird was completely uninterested in such matters, as implied above.
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the sophomore year of the rugby Football league was a year of excitement and ups and downs as the London clubs bounced back in a big way, with wasps, Harlequins and especially Blackheath, who were so dominant in the first half that they had a 17 point lead at the halfway point of the season!

however, the second half proved absolutely disatrous for the founding club of the RFU, as they hit a rough patch at possibly the worst moment, losing 7 consecutive games, including a tense affair against Wigan, who rose from their middle of the road first half of the season and carried their spectacular second half form to an unbelievable title win at the penultimate day, where a 21-3 thrashing of richmond and a wasps loss to Hull FC effectively sealed the title by 6 points for the lancashire side, truly one of the most remarkable achievements in the early era of pro rugby!

1896-1897: Wigan

1897-1898 SEASON
after failing to defend their title last season, inaugural champions Manningham doubled their efforts to win their second, which paid off big time, beating Leicester in an intense race and ending up with the best offense in the league. also of note is the really good performance of newly promoted hunslet, who finished in the top 5 ahead of the likes of Blackheath, Harlequins and even reigning champions wigan!

meanwhile, it was a nightmare season for last season's runner-up wasps, as they flirted with relegation for most of the campaign, only for a strong second half allowing them to survive for another year.

1897-1898: Manningham (2)

1898-1899 SEASON
an epic title race saw Northampton, wasps, Harlequins and, most surprisingly, newly promoted Salford went down the wire, with Northampton winning it all in the last day of the season.

1898-1899: Northampton Saints
1899-1900: Leicester tigers (they almost bottled it against runner-ups Harlequins.)
1900-1901: Salford (by 4 points over Wasps And 7 over leicester)
1901-1902: Salford (2)
1902-1903: Northampton saints (2) (by only 2 points from leicester)
1903-1904: Leeds St. John's
1904-1905: Leicester Tigers (2)
1905-1906: Leicester Tigers (3)
1906-1907: Harlequins

even during the early days of professional rugby in England, there was already an established order of power. Northampton saints, Leicester tigers, wasps, Harlequins, Salford, Wigan and Manningham are the teams that consistently finished in the top half since the start of the league, with Leicester shortly turning into the class of English rugby with their powerful forward packs and the ambition of their owner, Tom Crumbie.

he was one of the first sports team owners to truly invest a lot of money in order to bring success, setting many of professional sports's first big transfers in order to turn Leicester into a powerhouse.

however, despite all of these exciting games and title races, the rugby Football league found it increasingly difficult to keep fans at stadiums. while they attracted healthy attendance figures for the time, many people preferred going to soccer games instead, as not only were they more affordable to go to, but assosciation football was way less violent than rugby.

indeed, a lot of people, especially nobility and parents, found early rugby really hard to watch at times. the violent hits, slow pace and low-scoring affairs combined with the ugliness of scrums and rucks turned off many parents, who promptly sent their kids to play soccer, field hockey or cricket instead. the inaugural world cup of soccer in 1906 further damaged attendances to rugby games, and news of players dying alot were adding fuel to the fire, pressuring the RFU to try and find a solution to make the game both more entertaining and a lot safer, without alienating their core fan base and losing the nature of rugby... it turns out, they won't wait long before finding a solution, as unbeknownst to the RFU, a revolution was about to happen both across the Atlantic and in the Pacific colonies...

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The Oval, where the final of the 1906 FIFA World Cup was played

London, England - 1906

The 1906 FIFA World Cup took place from the 13th to the 30th of July, in London. Four stadia were chosen to host the games: the Manor Ground in Plumstead, home of Woolwich Arsenal; Stamford Bridge in Fulham, home of Chelsea; the Boleyn Ground (commonly known as Upton Park) in West Ham, home to the team of the same name; the Craven Cottage in Fulham, home to the team of the same name; and finally the Oval, where the most important matches in English football had been played since then - a venue that eventually hosted the semifinals and the final of the tournament.

The group stage, on the other hand, took place in the first four stadia: the 12 teams were split into four groups of three, each headed by one of the Home Nations, with the winners of each group advancing to the next stage; the teams were sorted into their groups at the Oval, before the eyes of fans and VIPs alike. Group A, headed by England and playing its matches at the Manor Ground, ended up featuring Austria and the Netherlands; Scotland was joined in Group B, who would play at Stamford Bridge, by Belgium and Hungary; Group C, playing its games at the Boleyn Ground, saw Ireland feature in the group alongside France and Switzerland; Canada and Denmark got then sorted in Group D alongside Wales, their games to be played at the Craven Cottage.

The teams were awarded 2 points for a win and 1 point for a draw, as was usual back then.

The kickoff of the match between England and the Netherlands at the Manor Ground marked the beginning of the World Cup...

Rugby seems like a sport with lots of inertia in it so probably the favourites for both (that said, have some secret hopes for Canada). France didn't get good until later ittl.
Rugby seems like a sport with lots of inertia in it so probably the favourites for both (that said, have some secret hopes for Canada). France didn't get good until later ittl.

uh, no, that's the soccer world cup, not the rugby one. the rugby world cup will happen later, in the 20s.

These guys are going to see some serious shit.

London, England - 1906

In the end, the Netherlands were no match for England; the crowd at the Manor Ground saw the host team defeat the Dutch 7-1. However, having grown overly confident from such a victory, the English made the mistake of underestimating Austria: the Danubian eleven was able to score a 2-2 draw against the home team, before defeating the Netherlands 6 to 2 in the last match of the group. In the end, only goal difference sent England to the top of the group and the semi-finals.

3 England
3 Austria
0 Netherlands

At Stamford Bridge, the first match of Group B between Hungary and Scotland resulted in a 3-1 win for the Magyars; the Scots then lost again to the Belgians, 3-2, in a tense affair that made it to the press as the Battle of Stamford Bridge. The fallout of the elimination of Scotland from the tournament on English soil was immense, with several clubs, fans and players in the country filling the press with threats of varied nature. Belgium then lost 2-1 against Hungary, with the Magyars advancing to the next stage.

4 Hungary
2 Belgium
0 Scotland

Ireland started Group C in the worst way possible at the Boleyn Ground, losing to France 6-3, before eking out a 1-1 draw against Switzerland; the final match, a 4-2 win for France against their Swiss neighbours, then propelled the French to the semi-finals, where it was soon revealed, after all matches in all groups had been played, that they were to play against England.

4 France
1 Switzerland
1 Ireland

Group D saw Wales defeat Denmark 5-3 at the Craven Cottage, and prevail 5-0 over Canada as well; the Olympic champions were then defeated 4-3 by the Danish, in a match where nothing but honour was at stake; the Canadian misadventure in England was not for naught however, as the team's participation in the World Cup nonetheless had an impact on the sports scene of the country.

4 Wales
2 Denmark
0 Canada

The first semi-final between England and France might as well have been a final, for the atmosphere of the game was, to put it mildly, incendiary at best. Only the presence of King Edward VII himself at the Oval kept things civil, for the match could have turned into a riot otherwise. In the end, the match ended with the result of 8 to 5 for the home team, a hattrick by Preston North End striker Dicky Bond granting the English victory over their traditional enemies. The other semi-final between Hungary and Wales was a much more sedate affair, with the Magyars prevailing over the Welsh 3 to 2.

England 8-5 France
Hungary 3-2 Wales

The final of the 1906 FIFA World Cup was to become a day of infamy in London and England. An unusually defensive game for the time granted the Danubian team a 3-1 victory over the home team, the authors of the three goals - Budapesti TC striker Jozsef Horvath and MTK Budapest strikers Bela Sebestyen and Jeno Karoly - becoming national heroes in Hungary virtually overnight.


England 1-3 Hungary

The Home Countries withdrew from FIFA in protest shortly afterwards - officially, because of the then eternal dispute about amateurism and professionalism - a voluntary exile that would last until the end of Edwards' tenure as head of the FA, in 1923. [1] Everyone else, however, was satisfied with the tournament, especially FIFA's president, Hirschman, who was already making plans to take the World Cup overseas, to a country that was to celebrate its centenary in 1910.

[1] They pulled similar tantrums even in OTL.

OOC: to simulate the matches, I used a combination of xkoranate (for the actual results) and a d10: if the die fell anywhere from 1 to 6, I gave the match to the higher ranked team on the 1906 Elo rating chart, if it fell on a 7 or 8 it was a draw, while 9 and 10 meant an underdog win. Any thoughts about this post?
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...and I thought we north Americans were poor, salty losers...OTOH, this might be the perfect opportunity for rugby to regain some fans...especially after what happens in my next post...

while English rugby had a head start on everyone by founding the first pro competition, other countries began forming rugby clubs and competitions, too. Ireland and Wales began hosting cup and regional competitions, soon followed by Scotland.

the first professional competition outside of the British isles was the French rugby championship, now known as the top 16, in 1892. originally, the French championship was simply a single game to crown a national champion. it would soon turn into a proper, formalised league at the beginning of the 20th century.

the second ever pro rugby competition outside of the British isles is also the first ever organised outside of europe.

formed in 1907, Australia's New South Wales rugby league hosted some of the nation's top clubs and attracted lots of spectators, though not as much as Aussie rules football and cricket, at least, in the beginning. they would quickly become famous for their very particular rulesets.


In order to encourage a more offensive style of play, the Aussie Rugby Union implemented special rules that made rugby a much faster and much different sport: instead of 15 players-a-side, it was 13 players. rucks and lineouts were removed, instead replaced with a play-the-ball motion and a quick throw-in, and a limit of six tackles (or downs) was implemented in order for both teams to have equal amount of possession.


the original all blacks

these special rules meant that, when Australia and neighbors new zealand's national sides played 15s, they were defensively deficient, but an offensive firehouse, often prompting other teams to resort to dirty tricks to stop them. the world-traveling new zealand team that was later dubbed the original all blacks captivated audiences and opponents alike with their free-flowing rugby, directly inspired by 13s rugby, where even the forwards ran and passed the ball just as much as the halves and backs did.

however, those original all blacks, along with their traveling companions, the NSWRL's south Sydney rabbitohs, didn't knew how influential they would soon become until that fateful day where their world tour stopped on the new continent. more precisely...


while there were already pro rugby competitions being established on the old continent, rugby in North America remained a strictly amateurish affair, being primarily played in canadian, new England and tri-states-based colleges and, since the majority of Americans at the time couldn't afford to go to college, it was considered a sport for the bourgeoisie.

even in this country, rugby faced stern competition from other sports, perhaps even tougher than in England, as the american born-and-bred sport known as baseball was clearly the national past time, and many parents sent their kids to play this sport or soccer instead for pretty much the same reasons English parents did the same. there was also the added factor that rugby was a foreign sport, which the Americans, ever the fervent nationalists, weren't fond of, despite them loving the tough, physical nature of the game. baseball and soccer were also more affordable, too.

they, too, found the game slow and boring, which is part of the reason why, at Yale university, a man named Walter Camp devised his own rugby football code, where the forward pass is allowed in order to speed up the game and encourage offense, as well as devising the line of scrimmage, the down-and-distance rule and allowing blocking and tackling players who don't have the ball in their hands.


Walter Camp, the man who almost killed rugby in america

many American colleges, athletes and citizens embraced this wholly American take on rugby, later to be called American football. it is said that, while rugby was the dominant code in te north, the southern states was the home of American football. the faster, tougher and more entertaining football quickly won over even some northern colleges, and there was legit concerns over rugby being supplanted by the gridiron.

...that is, if there wasn't so many deaths on the football fields!

indeed, the relaxed rules when it came to tackling and blocking resulted in many people often being on the receiving ends of concussions and many life-threatening injuries, with people dying being a sad, but frequent occurrence at football games.

the moment where this all went overboard was when the son of the president himself, Theodore Roosevelt, died during a game, along with many others.

this came as a huge blow for teddy. not just because his son died, but because he also loved football, and it was a proud American invention...yet he knew that enough was enough, and that the sport needed to be banned due to the sheer violence.

and so, in 1909, Teddy Roosevelt, after much consultation,made the hard choice of banning American football.

while the southern colleges weeped and got mad at this decision and desperately tried to overturn the ban to no avail, the northern colleges were rejoicing. the rejoices, however, didn't last long, as, just like the RFU in England, they knew that they needed to do something to make rugby safer, more entertaining and, most importantly, more accessible to the american working class.

luckily for them, two key events happened:

1. the mass of Irish and Welsh immigrants who came by boat at the turn of the century. the Welsh, especially, brought their love of rugby with them, and spread the game throughout the working class. in fact, many early American internationals were Welsh immigrants.


2. the world tour of the original all blacks and the South Sydney rabbitohs. the original all blacks played the US Men's national team and the best college sides in the north, wowing the american public and players with their offensive style of rugby. their games regularly attracted sold-out crowds, who came to see their mystifying offense. meanwhile, the South Sydney rabbitohs played 13s rugby, using the NSWRL rules, against both college sides and the top clubs of the great lakes and tri-states region as well as Canadian colleges and clubs. those games proved very popular among players and fans alike, especially the southern colleges and working class, as they found 13s rugby's ruleset to be easier to watch, play and understand due to the similarities with the recently banned American football.

with the all blacks teaching them how to play the game and discovering 13s rugby, the American colleges might have just found the perfect solution to increase the game's profile across the country and the world: adopt the 13s rugby rule set!

however, when America and Australia proposed it to the RFU, they refused to drastically change the sport like that, as they still believe certain aspects like the scrum and the lineout to be a vital part of the rules, and they felt that they didn't need to reduce the number of players to 13 to increase offense... the northern English clubs and the French union , however, saw those rule changes as only benefiting the sport, and they also saw an opportunity to regain lost fans, who were disgruntled by the humiliating defeat of England in the 1906 world cup finals.

in 1910, after a whole year of debate, the Rugby Football Union has agreed to change the rules of the game, adopting many characteristics of the NSWRL rules while managing to keep the scrum and lineouts intact.​

with the home nations boycotting all future world cups, the time to put the all-new, more entertaining rugby Football on the map was now. in the first 4 years of the brand new rule set, the sport exploded, with attendance going up everywhere, at both pro and college level, and they were loving the faster, more exciting games. as such, more and more people, especially of the working class, were setting up amateur leagues and clubs and kids were beginning to play rugby more and looked like the beginning of a golden age.



...a golden age that would eventually never happen. the great world war stopped rugby's momentum dead on its track...


BONUS: here are the universal rugby Football rules:
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The Vélodrome de Vincennes, where the final rounds of the first European Cup were played.

Paris, France - 1908

The decision of FIFA to hold the 1910 World Cup in Argentina, to promote the game in America and to celebrate the country's centenary, meant one thing: the association had to find a way to send as many European teams to the Southern Cone as possible, despite the cost of the trip; but sending every European team affiliated with FIFA to Argentina was not possible, either - for even if the Home Countries had (temporarily) left the association, more teams had joined it.

The solution came in the form of a cup - namely, the FA Cup, of which Vice-President Robert Guérin was very much aware: seeking to emulate its format, the Frenchman proposed the establishment of a knockout tournament between national teams, that would complement or replace the many friendly matches played between neighbouring European countries: the winner would be crowned European champion, and the first placed teams as a whole would win a ticket to Buenos Aires, paid for by the money made during the tournament itself.

The idea went forward; the winning side of the 1906 World Cup, Hungary, was exempted from taking part in the tournament (it did, however, play friendly matches), while all other European teams fought for the 7 remaining available spots - the second World Cup following the exact same format as the first, with 12 teams in 4 groups of 3, headed this time by one of the four American countries (Argentina, Canada, Chile and Uruguay) that had become FIFA members by then.

The matches, that were played all over Europe before the 1908 Olympic Games, were: [1]

Austria 1-3 Bohemia
5-0 Netherlands
France 2-6 Italy
Germany 3-5 Switzerland

Denmark, Norway and Sweden faced each other in a round robin tournament, with Denmark and Sweden qualifying:

Norway 3-11 Sweden
4-0 Norway
Denmark 2-1 Sweden

Austria and Germany then got a second chance at qualifying, through a playout game:

Austria 3-2 Germany

The finals of the European tournament were held in Paris in 1908, with all matches taking place at the Vélodrome de Vincennes; after a match between Austria and Sweden that ended with the victory of the Danubian side for 3-1, the remaining teams were put into two groups of three, with the first placed teams playing the final: [2]

Group A - Austria, Denmark, Switzerland

Austria 1-2 Denmark
3-0 Switzerland
Denmark 0-1 Switzerland

The group ended in an unexpected way, with all teams winning one game; Austria got in first place owing to goal difference.

2 Austria
2 Denmark
2 Switzerland

Group B - Belgium, Bohemia, Italy

Belgium 4-1 Italy
Belgium 2-2 Bohemia
Bohemia 6-0 Italy

Goal difference played a part in Group B as well, with Bohemia being picked over Belgium and going on to challenge Austria for the title.

3 Bohemia
3 Belgium
0 Italy

The final was exciting to say the least, with Bohemia prevailing over their Austro-Hungarian cousins:


Austria 2-6 Bohemia

The road to the 1910 World Cup in Argentina had been paved, with European champions Bohemia, second-placed Austria, as well as Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden and 1906 World Cup champions Hungary heading to Buenos Aires to join Argentina, Canada, Chile and Uruguay. The impromptu tournament was a success, the victory of Bohemia over Austria in the final even influencing political discourse in Austria-Hungary: not long after the end of the tournament, some half-hearted proposals were made to turn Bohemia into a third Austro-Hungarian crown, with some even wondering if Hungary, ever opposed to the Illyrian designs of Charles I, could've let them slide in the event of a hypothetical establishment of a full-fledged Bohemian kingdom inside the borders of the Habsburg realm. [3]

[1] These results are largely taken from a huge database of international matches.
[2] These ones, on the other hand, are the result of d10 rolls.
[3] @kinnikuniverse is trying to find a way to keep Eastern Europe (and possibly even Russia itself) out of the USSR, since he wants to employ some of their basketball, ice hockey, etc. players elsewhere as professionals; I, on the other hand, am looking to have Italy avoid Fascism, because Fascism hit Italian rugby hard and @kinnikuniverse wants Italy to have a decent enough side. What would be the best way to proceed in order to fulfill these goals? I left the door open for all sorts of butterflies here.
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Close, but no cigar. Sorry, guys.

Buenos Aires, Argentina - 1910

The 1910 FIFA World Cup took place in Argentina's capital city, Buenos Aires, just as the country was celebrating its 100 years of independence. The format of the 1910 tournament was identical to that of the 1906 one: 12 teams split into 4 groups of 3, with the winners going forward to the semi-finals; and, just as the four Home Countries had been the top seeds in the 1906 World Cup, due to where it was held, the four American countries were given that honour in the 1910 World Cup. Debuting Bohemia, Denmark, Italy and Sweden were the bottom seeds, with defending champions Hungary and 1906 veterans Austria, Belgium and Switzerland in the middle.

The matches of Group A (Argentina, Austria, Sweden) took place at the Dársena Sur stadium, home of River Plate; the opening match between Argentina and Austria was a 3-3 draw, that was followed by a 4-0 victory of the host team over newcomer Sweden; Austria 5-3 victory over the same team was not enough, goal difference favouring the South American team.

Argentina 3-3 Austria
Argentina 4-0 Sweden
Austria 5-3 Sweden

3 Argentina
3 Austria
0 Sweden

Group B played at the Isla Demarchi, home of Boca Juniors; Canada opened up the group with an unexpected 2-1 win against clear favourites Belgium, before losing 3-1 to Italy; Belgium and Italy went on to draw the final match of the group 1-1, with Italy - that played in an all white outfit, as the FIGC couldn't decide on a colour [1] going to the semi-finals.

Belgium 1-2 Canada
Canada 1-3 Italy
1-1 Italy

3 Italy
2 Canada
1 Belgium

Group C - Chile, Denmark, Hungary - played at the Cancha de Belgrano; in the opening game, Chile was defeated 2-0 by Olympic silver medalist Denmark, and then it was defeated again by 1906 champions Hungary; the final match between Denmark and Hungary was a 2-1 victory for the Scandinavian team, that eliminated the 1906 victors from the competition.

Chile 0-2 Denmark
Chile 2-4 Hungary
2-1 Hungary

4 Denmark
2 Hungary
0 Chile

The Cancha de Gimnasia y Esgrima hosted the matches of Group D, made up of Bohemia, Switzerland and Uruguay; the South American team drew the opening match against the Danubian representative 1-1, before prevailing 6-2 over Switzerland; as the final match between Bohemia and Switzerland went on to be yet another draw, this time a 2-2 one, Uruguay went to the semi-finals quite decisively.

Bohemia 1-1 Uruguay
Switzerland 2-6 Uruguay
Bohemia 2-2 Switzerland

4 Uruguay
1 Bohemia
1 Switzerland

The semi-finals and the final were held at the Hipodromo de Palermo, that had been completed in 1908; in the first semi-final, the host team defeated newcomers Italy 6-1, while Denmark prevailed over Uruguay 2-0. In the end, the first World Cup to be held in the Americas was won by an American team, with Argentina defeating Denmark 3-0.

Argentina 6-1 Italy
Denmark 2-0 Uruguay


Argentina 3-0 Denmark

The 1910 World Cup archived, FIFA started planning out the 1914 edition; the 1914 FIFA World Cup in the Netherlands - the tournament was awarded to the country after all other applicants had withdrawn their bids - would eventually go down in infamy, not due to anything that happened on the field, but due to its sinister reputation as the last gasp of the Belle Epoque, the continent and the world plunging into war soon afterwards, due to the diplomatic crisis that resulted from the failed attempt to assassinate the crown prince of Austria-Hungary. [2]

[1] Yes, this actually happened back then, but the matter had been solved by OTL 1930.
[2] More small butterflies, but whether they'll result in a different world is up to you; @kinnikuniverse is trying to find a way to keep Eastern Europe (and possibly even Russia itself) out of the USSR, since he wants to employ some of their basketball, ice hockey, etc. players elsewhere as professionals; I, on the other hand, am looking to have Italy avoid Fascism, because Fascism hit Italian rugby hard and @kinnikuniverse wants Italy to have a decent enough side. What would be the best way to proceed in order to fulfill these goals?
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Bern in 1912

Bern, Switzerland - 1912

For the second edition of the European Cup, the number of contestants in the group stage - that took place in Bern in 1912 - was increased from 6 to 8, subdivided into two groups of four. The preliminary round took place in stadiums all over Europe, with those teams that qualified for the 1910 World Cup having to defend their spot in the coming 1914 World Cup against a challenger - a rule that was added to bring order to a preliminary round that, to many, had seemed hastily cobbled together and planned in the first edition of the tournament. Teams making their debut, on the other hand, went against non-qualified but more experienced teams, having to beat them first in order to have a shot at challenging a 1910 veteran for a ticket to the Netherlands, that - in another innovation compared to the previous edition of the tournament - was automatically admitted to the European Cup as a contestant.

Preliminary Round 1

Finland 2 - 5 Sweden
4 - 1 Luxembourg
Norway 2-1 Russia

Preliminary Round 2

3 - 1 Bohemia
France 0 - 3 Hungary
4 - 2 Sweden
Denmark 2 - 1 Norway
Italy 0 - 3 Switzerland

7 - 1 France
Finland 2 - 0 Russia

The final round of the tournament took place in Bern's Sportplatz Spitalacker in 1912, with Group A consisting of 1914 World Cup host nation Netherlands and qualified teams Austria, Belgium and Finland, and Group B consisting of Denmark, Germany, Hungary and Switzerland.

Group A

Austria 1 - 2 Belgium
4 - 2 Netherlands

Austria 2 - 0 Finland
Netherlands 4 - 0 Belgium

Austria 1 - 5 Netherlands
3 - 1 Belgium

4 Netherlands
4 Finland
2 Austria
2 Belgium

Group B

Denmark 0 - 1 Germany
3 - 1 Switzerland

Denmark 2 - 1 Hungary
Germany 3 - 0 Switzerland

Denmark 1 - 2 Switzerland
Germany 2 - 4 Hungary

4 Germany
4 Hungary
2 Denmark
2 Switzerland

There were quite a few upsets in both groups, with Finland punching well above their level and other teams such as Austria performing well under expectations.


Finland 0 - 6 Germany
2 - 1 Netherlands



Hungary 4 - 2 Germany

After the victory in the 1906 World Cup and the disappointment of 1910, Hungary could look forward at going to the 1914 World Cup as European champions; it was to be their last World Cup, before the start of the war that would've raged from the summer of 1914 to the early months of 1917. [1]

[1] Butterflies, motherfuckers.

The Estadio Gran Parque Central of Montevideo

Montevideo, Uruguay - 1912

Following the example of the European Cup, FIFA decided to stage a similar tournament in the American continent, featuring the six national teams that had played in friendlies or official tournaments since then: Argentina, British Guiana, Canada, Chile, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Uruguay. The tournament took place at Montevideo's Parque Central in 1912, not long after the finals of the European one; the teams were subdivided into two groups of three, with the first placed teams advancing to the final. A playoff match between British Guiana and Trinidad and Tobago took place before the tournament proper, ending 4 to 1 for the latter, the result being identical to that of their very first match in 1905; [1] Trinidad and Tobago was then sorted in Group A alongside World Cup champions Argentina and former Olympic champions Canada, while Group B featured Chile, the United States and Uruguay.

Group A

3 - 0 Canada
Argentina 10 - 0 Trinidad and Tobago
Canada 4 - 1 Trinidad and Tobago

4 Argentina
2 Canada
0 Trinidad and Tobago

Group B

Chile 2 - 3 United States
Chile 2 - 6 Uruguay
United States 1 - 1 Uruguay

3 Uruguay
3 United States
0 Chile

The only surprise in the group stages was the United States qualifying for the World Cup at the expense of Chile; Argentina, on the other hand, would've qualified regardless, as the defending champion.



Argentina 3 - 2 Uruguay

With a goal by Arnold Watson Hutton and two goals by José Viale, Argentina joined Hungary as the most successful team in world football. [2] The performances of Canada and the United States raised the popularity of the sport in North America - even though it remained less popular than rugby [3].

[1] As seen here.
[2] I got most details of the match from here.
[3] @kinnikuniverse is hard at work on the next rugby update.