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From Leather to Synthetic, the evolution of the rugby ball

March 03, 2022 2 min read

The rugby ball has changed drastically since it was first created. There were many small changes that led to the modern rugby ball; here is a timeline of how it changed through the years.

   1900 - The first rubber bladder was sewn into balls by hand, which made them very irregular and inconsistent. The leather used to make the ball was also very thick.

   1905 - The Union de Rugby decide to use an oblong ball; this change came about because the oval shaped balls that had been previously used were difficult for players to throw forward. These new balls were larger than previously used balls and they could be filled with air better  due to  the improved sewing machine technology.

    1912  -    The 'v' shape at the bottom of the ball was added to give the ball a better grip.

    1920  - The introduction of synthetic material dramatically reduced the weight of the rugby ball, which allowed for more accurate passing and catching of the ball. This change also made it easier to pass high up in the air. Synthetic balls were first used as soccer balls had been using them since 1892.

   1926 - An Australian player first proposed a reduction in the size of rugby balls, however this idea was not carried out until 1962 when they were shrunk from 28 inches long down to 26 inches long.  

    1948 - Rugby league began having regular matches with some rules slightly different from those used in rugby union. The most major difference being that rugby league players could tackle any part of the body.

   1954 - Television began broadcasting rugby games and this led to a higher demand for the ball.

    1962 - The size of the rugby ball was reduced from 28 inches long to 26 inches long, as mentioned earlier.

1978 - A synthetic material known as Butyl was developed and it became the most popular type of rugby ball.

2002 - The Rugby World Cup was held in Australia and New Zealand and the first ever synthetic rugby ball was used in the tournament. This ball was made of a composite material consisting of two different types of foam, which gave it good bounce and flight properties.

Nowadays, synthetic balls are used in all levels of rugby union, from amateur matches right up to international competitions. While leather balls are still used in some forms of rugby league, the majority of leagues have adapted to synthetic balls.

There were many small changes that led to modern rugby ball, but here is a timeline showing how it changed through the years. In 1900, the first rubber bladder was sewn into rugby balls by hand which made them very irregular and inconsistent. The leather used for making these balls was also very thick. In 1905, the Union de Rugby decide to use an oblong ball because oval shaped balls previously used were difficult for players to throw forward. These new balls were larger than previously used ones and they could be filled with air better due to improved sewing machine technology.  In 1912, when 'v' shape at bottom of the ball was added



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