Rugby union – commonly referred to as just rugby, or union, and in New Zealand occasionally as football or footy – is a code of football. Rugby union is a contact sport played by teams with fifteen players. The name is derived from the name of the game's original governing body, the Rugby Football Union, with the suffix union used to differentiate it from other codes of rugby football. The game developed from the variant of football at played Rugby school in England. The crucial differences from association football are that in rugby the ball is a prolate spheroid instead of a sphere, and that the players are allowed to pick the ball up and run with it. The players are also allowed to throw the ball from player to player, but are not allowed to throw it forward – the ball must only be passed sideways or backward.
The game has established itself as a major global sport, and is especially popular in New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Wales, England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Australia, Argentina and South Africa. Rugby is also gaining popularity in Italy, which was accepted into the Six Nations Championship in 2000, and Japan. Rugby is the most popular team sport in Georgia and is popular in Romania, Namibia, the United States of America and Canada.
Thomas Ellison (c. 1867 – 1904) was a New Zealand rugby union player. After being educated at Te Aute College, where he was introduced to rugby, Ellison moved to Wellington, and played for the Poneke Football Club. He was subsequently selected to represent Wellington province, and was later recruited into Joe Warbrick's privately organised 1888–89 New Zealand Native football team. Ellison scored 113 points and 43 tries on their epic 107-match tour of the British Isles, Australia and New Zealand. On his return he continued with Poneke and Wellington, and from 1892 started to refine and popularise the wing-forward system of play, which was a vital element of New Zealand rugby's style until 1932. At the first New Zealand Rugby Football Union annual general meeting in 1893, he proposed that the playing colours of the New Zealand side should be predominantly black with a silver fern—a playing strip that inspired the team’s name of All Blacks. That year he captained the New Zealand side on their tour of Australia. He retired from playing afterwards, but continued as a coach and administrator. Ellison was the author of a coaching manual, The Art of Rugby Football, published in 1902.