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The Calcutta Cup is a rugby union trophy awarded to the winner of the annual Six Nations Championship match between England and Scotland. It is currently England's since the 2009 Six Nations Championship.
Since the cup was first competed for in 1879, England has won just over half of the 123 matches, and Scotland has won around one third.
The cup itself is of Indian workmanship, decorated with cobras and an elephant. It is now in a fragile state after much mistreatment.
The most recent Calcutta Cup match was won by England, who beat Scotland 15–9 at Murrayfield Stadium on 6 February 2016, to retain the Cup which they have held since 2009.
The Calcutta Club
The match was such a success that it was repeated a week later. These lovers of rugby wanted to form a club in the area and the aforementioned matches were the agents which led to the formation of the Calcutta Football Club in January 1873.
The Calcutta Club joined the Rugby Football Union in 1874. Despite the Indian climate not being entirely suitable for playing rugby, the club prospered during that first year. However, when the free bar had to be discontinued, the membership took an appreciable drop. Other sports, such as tennis and polo, which were considered to be more suited to the local climate, were making inroads into the numbers of gentlemen available. The members decided to disband but keen to perpetuate the name of the club, they withdrew the club's funds from the bank, which were in Silver Rupees, had them melted down and made into a cup which they presented to the RFU in 1878, with the provision that it should be competed for annually.
The cup is of Indian workmanship, approximately 18 inches (45 cm) high, the body is finely engraved with three king cobras forming the handles. The domed lid is surmounted by an elephant which is, it is said, copied from the Viceroy's own stock. The inscription on the Cup's wooden base reads: THE CALCUTTA CUP.
The base has attached to it additional plates which record the date of each match played with the name of the winning country and the names of the two captains. There is an anomaly in the recording of the winning country on the base of the Cup. It was first played for in 1879, but the plinth shows records extending back to the first international in 1871.
The original trophy is in a very fragile state following many years of poor treatment and is not in a strong enough condition to attend functions or go on tours. When won by England the original Calcutta Cup is put on public display in the Museum of Rugby in Twickenham, where it slowly turns around in a purpose built showcase. Both nations have full size replicas of the Cup. Whilst the original was handmade by Indian craftsmen, the replicas were made using modern technology.
In 1988 the cup was damaged by the antics of some drunken players, including England number eight Dean Richards and Scotland flanker John Jeffrey who played football with the Calcutta Cup along Princes Street in Edinburgh. Jeffrey received a six-month ban from the SRU, whilst Richards was given a one-match sentence from England.
Despite the initial request of the Calcutta Club that the trophy be used as rugby's answer to football's FA Cup, the RFU refused to turn the Calcutta Cup into a knock-out competition for English club sides. They believed that "competitiveness" ran against the amateur ethos and instead decided that a game should be played each year between England and Scotland and whoever wins should keep it for that year. The first Calcutta Cup match was played at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh, on 10 March 1879 and ended in a draw; Scotland scored a drop goal and England a goal. The following year on 28 February 1880 England became the first winners of the Calcutta Cup when they defeated Scotland by 2 goals & 3 tries to 1 goal in Manchester. Matches have continued on an annual basis ever since except for two interruptions due to the World Wars between 1915–1919 and 1940–1946.
As of 2016, 123 Calcutta Cup matches have taken place. Currently, this game is the annual match between the two nations in the Six Nations Championship. The ground alternates between Murrayfield Stadium in Scotland (on even years) and Twickenham Stadium (on odd years).
In 2004, the two countries' rugby governing bodies, the Rugby Football Union (England) and the Scottish Rugby Union, were considering a plan to add a second Calcutta Cup fixture each year, outside the Six Nations. The second fixture would be hosted by the away nation in the Six Nations fixture of the same year. Under that plan, one nation would have to win both matches to take the Cup off its current holder. Due to a largely unfavourable reaction, the proposal soon disappeared from view.
- Rugby union trophies and awards
- Le Crunch, a long-standing rivalry between England and France
- Millennium Trophy, for winners of England v. Ireland in the Six Nations
- Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy, for winners of France v. Italy in the Six Nations
- Triple Crown Trophy, whoever (if any) wins all games between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the Six Nations
- Rugby union in India
- England–Scotland football rivalry in association football
The other Calcutta Cups
The original and oldest Calcutta Cup is a silver trophy played for annually by the members of Royal Blackheath Golf Club. It was a gift from the Royal Calcutta Golf Club in response to the presentation of a medal given by Blackheath. It is made from melted down silver rupees reputedly from same the batch of melted down silver rupees as the Cup played for between England and Scotland. The cup arrived in London in 1875. It was first played for in December 1875 three years before the first Calcutta Cup match between England and Scotland. The Cup held by Royal blackheath Golf Club has only 2 handles unlike the well known Calcutta Cup. It is only in recent years that the history of the original Calcutta Cup has been appreciated by sporting historians.
Royal Blackheath Golf Club members had close links with Blackheath Football(Rugby)Club which was one of the most prominent Clubs in the early years of the Rugby Football Union. Members of both clubs served in India in the 1870s. This link is the most likely explanation for the creation of a similar cup being created by the Calcutta rugby Club a few years later and becoming the world famous Calcutta Cup.
- Five famous victories to lift Scottish Hearts, The Scotsman, February 25, 2006
- The Calcutta Cup (PDF) explained on the website of the Scottish Rugby Union.
- British Army Rugby Union The Army and the Calcutta Cup (1878–9).