There are two forms of rugby - Rugby Union, which is strictly amateur, and Rugby League, played largely in the north, which is a professional sport. Rugby Union has fifteen players, while Rugby League has thirteen, but the two games are basically the same. They are so similar that somebody who is good at one of them can quickly learn to become good at the other. The real difference between them is a matter of social history. Rugby union is the older of the two. In the nineteenth century it was enthusiastically taken up by most of Britain's public schools. Rugby league split off from rugby union at the end of the century. There are two versions of this fast and aggressive ball game: rugby union and rugby league. Although it has now spread to many of the same places in the world where rugby union is played (rugby union is played at top level in the British Isles, France, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand; also to a high level in North America, Argentina, Romania and some Pacific islands). Rugby can be considered the 'national sport' of Wales, New Zealand, Fiji, Western Samoa and Tonga, and of South African whites. Its traditional home is among the working class of the north of England, where it was a way for miners and factory workers to make a little bit of extra money from their sporting talents. Unlike rugby union, it has always been a professional sport.
Because of these social origins, rugby league in Britain is seen as a working class sport, while rugby union is mainly for the middle classes. Except in south Wales. There, rugby union is a sport for all classes, and more popular than football. In Wales, the phrase 'international day' means only one thing - that the national rugby team are playing. Since 1970, some of the best Welsh players have been persuaded to 'change codes'. They are 'bought' by one of the big rugby league clubs, where they can make a lot of money. Whenever this happens it is seen as a national disaster among the Welsh.
Rugby union has had some success in recent years in selling itself to a wider audience. As a result, just as football has become less exclusively working class in character, rugby union has become less exclusively middle class. In 1995- it finally abandoned amateurism. In fact, the amateur status of top rugby union players had already become meaningless. They didn't get paid a salary or fee for playing, but they received large 'expenses' as well as various publicity contracts and paid speaking engagements.
The game particularly associated with England is cricket. Judging by the numbers of people who play it and watch it ( look at 'Spectator attendance at major sports'), cricket is definitely not the national sport of Britain. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, interest in it is largely confined to the middle classes. Only in England and a small part of Wales is it played at top level. And even in England, where its enthusiasts come from all classes, the majority of the population do not understand its rules. Moreover, it is rare for the English national team to be the best in the world.
Cricket is, therefore, the national English game in a symbolic sense. However, to some people cricket is more than just a symbol. The comparatively low attendance at top class matches does not give a true picture of the level of interest in the country. One game of cricket takes a terribly long time, which a lot of people simply don't have to spare. Eleven players in each team. Test matches between national teams can last up to five days of six hours each. Top club teams play matches lasting between two and four days. There are also one-day matches lasting about seven hours. In fact there are millions of people in the country who don't just enjoy cricket but are passionate about it! These people spend up to thirty days each summer tuned to the live radio commentary of 'Test' (= international) Matches. When they get the chance, they watch a bit of the live television coverage. Some people even do both at the same time (they turn the sound down on the television and listen to the radio). To these people, the commentators become well-loved figures. When, in 1994, one famous commentator died, the Prime Minister lamented that 'summers will never: be the same again'. And if cricket fans are too busy to listen to the radio commentary, they can always phone a special number to be given the latest score!
Many other games which are English in origin have been adopted with enthusiasm all over the world, but cricket has been seriously and extensively adopted only in the former British empire, particularly in Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and South Africa. Do you know how to play cricket? If you don't live in these countries you won't learn it at school. English people love cricket. Summer isn't summer without it. Even if you do not understand the rules, it is attractive to watch the players, dressed in white playing on the beautiful green cricket fields. Every Sunday morning from May to the end of September many Englishmen get up very early, and take a lot of sandwiches with them. It is necessary because the games are very long. Games between two village teams last for only one afternoon. Games between counties last for three days, with 6 hours play on each day. When England plays with one or other cricketing countries such as Australia and New Zealand it is called a test match and lasts for five days. Cricket is played in schools, colleges and universities and in most towns and villages by teams which play weekly games. Test matches with other cricketing countries are held annually.
Cricket is also played by women and girls. The governing body is Women's Cricket Association, founded in 1926. Women's cricket clubs have regular weekend games. Test matches and other international matches take place. The women's World Cup is held every four years. But There is The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and Lord's cricket ground in the United Kingdom. The MCC was founded in 1787, and is still the most important authority on cricket in the world. As a club it is exclusively male. No woman is allowed to enter the clubbuildings. There are special stands for members and their wives and quests.
Organised amateur cricket is played between club teams, mainly on Saturday afternoons. Nearly every village, except in the far