France 2023 pays tribute to William Webb Ellis in Menton

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The France 2023 Organising Committee visited the grave of William Webb Ellis during a visit in Menton on the French Riviera.

The delegation paid tribute to the former Rugby School pupil who, in 1823, caught the ball and ran with it. With this “fine disregard for the rules”, Webb Ellis is credited with inventing the game of rugby football as distinct from its kicking counterparts.

While the validity of the Webb Ellis story has been questioned, it is irrefutable that the pupils of Rugby School in the United Kingdom shaped the game that we know and love.
The first written ‘football rules’ were composed by three of its pupils in 1845 and printed in a small, pocket-sized book. This is where many of the words and phrases associated with the game, such as ‘try’, came to light.

The original rugby law book from 1845 is on display at the World Rugby Hall of Fame based in Rugby alongside iconic rugby memorabilia. Webb Ellis and Rugby School are among 148 inductees in the Hall of Fame, having been the first afforded the honour back in 2006.

The visit to Menton was part of the We Love 2023 Tour’, a train branded with Rugby World Cup 2023 colours that is travelling across France to present the tournament’s societal ambition. Frédéric Michalak, Les Bleus’ leading point scorer in test rugby and Rugby World Cup 2023 ambassador, joined the delegation that honoured Webb Ellis’ memory. Webb Ellis spent most of his life in Menton as the local pastor and a church was inaugurated in his name during the visit.

RWC 2023 will be organised in France from 8 September to 21 October, 2023 in a year when the sport celebrates its 200th anniversary. Twenty teams from around the world will compete to lift the coveted trophy named after William Webb Ellis and win the 10th edition of the men’s Rugby World Cup.

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