Hacking (rugby)

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Hacking is the name of a tactic in early rugby football which has since been banned from the game of rugby. The tactic involved tripping an opposing player by kicking their shins. The dispute over hacking eventually lead to the schism between rugby football and association football. Despite this, rugby clubs banned the tactic soon after.


The practice of hacking in English football games had been around for several years and was not exclusive to rugby until the 1800s after several codes of football abandoned it. Hacking was used in rugby as a way to get the ball carrier to the ground where it was also legal to hack the first player into the ruck.[1] Often in rugby, before the introduction of referees, hacking was also used as a method to punish players who were offside.[1]

Due to differences in the number of rules for football, a meeting was held in 1863 to agree on a unified set of rules for football. A main disagreement arose when hacking was attempted to be prohibited from these unified rules following complaints about the violence of hacking in newspapers.[2] Francis Maule Campbell of Blackheath F.C. argued that hacking was part of the game[3] and character building remarking that it "...would do away with all the courage and pluck of the game" and declared that he would "bring over a lot of Frenchmen" to beat the other clubs with a weeks training.[4] Campbell then made a number of proposed amendments aiming at retaining hacking in the game. As a result of his amendments insisting on hacking being included in the rules being rejected, he withdrew Blackheath from the meetings of The Football Association, thus creating the split between rugby and association football.[5]


Despite Campbell's strong support for hacking to remain part of rugby, numerous clubs then started to abolish it in the following years with Blackheath and Richmond banning it in 1865 and 1866 respectively.[6] In 1871, rugby clubs formed the Rugby Football Union and all mention of hacking permitted in the rules was eventually removed.[5] Some rugby clubs insisted on maintaining the tactic of hacking after the formation of the RFU. As a result, Rugby School where the game was invented could not join the RFU until 1890 because they refused to ban hacking in their games.[6] Under the current laws of rugby union, section 10.4.d prohibits hacking in modern rugby matches.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Roodt, Gerhard (2015). "6: From the establishment of the RFU up to 1900". The DNA of Rugby Football: A Short History of the Origin of Rugby Football. Partridge Africa. ISBN 1482808293.
  2. ^ Dunning, Eric (2004). Sport Histories: Figurational Studies in the Development of Modern Sports. Routledge. p. 56. ISBN 1134447485.
  3. ^ "To have or not to hack?". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  4. ^ Collins, Tony (2009). A Social History of English Rugby Union. Routledge. p. 77. ISBN 1134023359.
  5. ^ a b Dunning, Eric (2005). Barbarians, Gentlemen and Players: A Sociological Study of the Development of Rugby Football. Psychology Press. pp. 94–95. ISBN 071468290X.
  6. ^ a b Nauright, John. "Rugby". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  7. ^ "Law 10: Foul Play". IRB. Retrieved 2016-02-26.