The Gentleman's Game: An alternate History of Rugby Football

STATE OF WORLD RUGBY BEFORE THE WAR: The first international competitions.
while national teams has been a part of rugby since the beginning, there was no real competitions between countries for a long time. all national teams played "test" matches against each other. the home nations were largely dominant in the first years of international play, though the arrival of the original all blacks, the ban of American football and the implementation of the new rules changed the game considerably, with new zealand, Australia, France, the United States and canada gaining considerable ground, being advantaged by the new rules and, while new zealand would be the only ones to beat the home nations, the gap between them, France and their former colonies grew thinner and thinner by the year. meanwhile, other nations surrounding France began playing rugby, with Spain, Italy, Germany, portugal and the netherlands beginning to play friendlies against each other and the French. the Dutch, in particular, imported the game of rugby into their colonies. while curacao and the northern African colonies were indifferent and Belgium found the sport interesting and nothing more, it caught on like wild fire in South Africa, quickly growing into the top sport there, especially after the great war.

among the minor colonies of the Dutch empire were Indonesia and Taiwan, and while it didn't catch on like it did in South Africa or even belgium there, Indonesia and Taiwan were interested enough to at least play an international friendly against one another, marking the small, humble beginnings of rugby in Asia.

meanwhile, in the americas, the United States and Canada were experiencing a boom in rugby, with regional leagues and professional clubs beginning to pop up all across america, with the national cup competition, known as the bowl, serving as a knockout tournament. Canada, in particular, founded the first national professional leagues on the new continent. two, to be exact, with the Ontario rugby Football union forming the inter-provincial rugby Football League, which also admitted clubs from Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, while western canada had the Western provinces rugby league. the champions of both leagues would then face off in a championship game to crown the national champions. the staple of Canadian rugby is the grey cup, contested since 1909 as an FA Cup-style knockout tournament for amateur and pro clubs.

on the international front, the USA eagles and Canada take part in a yearly series of games known as the battle of the border, along with their regular test matches against overseas countries. while the US would handily win the first battles, Canada grew stronger and stronger over the pre-war years, with their first victory over the Americans, in 1907, being celebrated by the maple leaf as almost a national holiday.

further down south, the Welsh and Irish immigrants stationed in Argentina spread the game of rugby throughout the Buenos Aires area. it then spread in the countries near it, like Brazil, (where every sport that is not football is a minor sport), colombia, chile, Paraguay and especially Uruguay. those six nations began establishing themselves as the top south American nations in the sport, with Argentina and Uruguay being a cut above the rest, winning all editions of the yearly copa rugby america so far.

in the Pacific, the various islands hosted the first international rugby competition: the all-Pacific championship, with new zealand and Australia squaring off against their neighbors Fiji, Samoa, papue new guinea, Tonga and Hawaii in a yearly league-style tournament held over the winter in the much bigger Australian mainland.

speaking of Australia, while the Victoria region is strictly aussie rules territory, new south Wales and Queensland are the definitive rugby territories down under, with the competing NSWRL and QRL spreading rugby's popularity across the country, thanks to their heavily-publicised yearly 3-game series of interstate matches called State of Origin.

finally, the success of the new international competitions by FIFA such as the world cup, the European cup and the recently established americas cup prompted the IRB to consider creating international competitions of their own, with the long term goal of eventually hosting a rugby version of the world cup.

in 1911, the European Rugby Federation was founded in Paris, france, and announced that, starting in winter 1913, they will organize an europe-wide league-style competition called the nations league, to replace the various friendlies and test matches between nations of the old continent.

due to being the head nation of the Federation, France automatically enters the nations league, with the home nations accepting their invitations soon after. accepting their invitations are Spain, portugal, Germany, the Netherlands, belgium, Italy, Russia, Romania and Switzerland.

the results of the first two nations league were pretty one-sided, with England claiming the first first edition by a wide margin and winning the second by only 3 points from wales, though, interestingly the home nations never swept the first four places, with France finishing in 3rd in 1913 and 4th in 1914. despite those obvious results, there were some upsets, such as italy and spain all defeating France by one try, the French showing the kind of inconsistency that would plague them for a very long time...Scotland was also upset by Italy, Romania and russia, with the latter even winning against England in 1914.

those first international competitions were a success, the crowds loving the new, faster, more offensive version of rugby instated by the IRB in 1910, and talks of organising the first ever rugby world cup grew more and more intense...unfortunately, it came to an indefinite end when the great war broke out.

once the war was over and the countries involved recovered from their wounds, the IRB announced that the first ever world cup of rugby would take place the year after the 1922 FIFA world cup, so as to have the spotlight solely on the gentleman's game. it would take place in England, the birthplace of rugby, just like the inaugural FIFA world cup in 1906.


TO BE CONTINUED IN THE 1920s​
 


Lazio in 1914

Italy - 1914

Between the inaugural edition of the FIFA World Cup in 1906 and the 1912 European Cup, football in Italy continued as usual, with the format of the Torneo FIGC (formerly Torneo FGNI and then Torneo FIF) not seeing a lot of changes since its first edition in 1896; however, the dismal performances of the national team in the European Cup and the World Cup convinced the FIGC to do away with the regional groups that had characterized the league since then, and move to a format not unlike that of the First Division in England; the 1913 edition of the Torneo FGNI was to be the last Italian championship contested through the old format, with the best placed teams in the regional groups forming the new 1913-1914 Serie A - a name that the Swiss had already adopted for their top flight, and that quite a few people in the FIGC liked. [1]

Torneo FGNI - Torneo FIF - Torneo FIGC [2]

1896: Udinese (1)
1897: Alessandria (1)
1898: Ferrara (2)
1899: Genoa (1)
1900: Genoa (2)
1901: Mediolanum (1)
1902: Andrea Doria (1)
1903: Genoa (3)
1904: Milan (1)
1905: Milan (2)
1906: Milan (3)
1907: Milan (4)
1908: Venezia (1)
1909: Inter (1)
1910: Andrea Doria (2)
1911: Marcantonio Bentegodi (1) [3]
1912: Andrea Doria (2)
1913: Andrea Doria (3)

The teams that qualified for the 1913-1914 Serie A during the 1913 edition of the Torneo FIGC were: [4]

Andrea Doria (Winner of the Torneo FIGC, 2nd place in the Liguria and Lombardy group)
Casale (2nd place in the Piedmont group)
Genoa (3rd place in the Liguria and Lombardy group, winner of a qualification playoff match)
Hellas Verona (2nd place in the Emilia-Romagna and Veneto group)
Lazio (1st place in the Lazio group)
Milan (1st place in the Liguria and Lombardy group)
Naples (1st place in the Campania group)
Pro Vercelli (1st place in the Piedmont group)
Vicenza (1st place in the Emilia-Romagna and Veneto group)
Virtus Juventusque (1st place in the Tuscany group)

Some smaller teams and some teams from the South protested against the new format, seceding from the FIGC; among their complaints, there also was the fact that some of the bigger teams, and especially those from Italy's industrial triangle, employed experienced foreigners far more often than the other teams, with very predictable results. The seceding teams would forge their own path, in a way no one expected. [5]

The first edition of the Serie A was won by Lazio, that topped the league at 30 points, followed by Andrea Doria at 27 and Milan at 26. [6]

30 Lazio
27 Andrea Doria
26 Milan
20 Genoa
18 Naples
13 Casale
13 Hellas Verona
12 Vicenza
12 Pro Vercelli
09 Virtus Juventusque

Virtus Juventusque was relegated to the Serie B, that had been formed in the same year with the following teams: [4]

Bologna (5th place in the Emilia-Romagna and Veneto group, winner of a qualification playoff match)
Inter (4th place in the Liguria and Lombardy group)
Internazionale Napoli (2nd place in the Campania group)
Juventus Roma (2nd place in the Lazio group)
Novara (5th place in the Piedmont group, winner of a qualification playoff match)
Torino (3rd place in the Piedmont group)
Piemonte (4th place in the Piedmont group)
SPES Livorno (2nd place in the Tuscany group)
Venezia (3rd place in the Emilia-Romagna and Veneto group)
Volontari Venezia (4th place in the Emilia-Romagna and Veneto group)

The league was won by Bologna, that was promoted to Serie A in stead of Virtus Juventusque - the team from Livorno would then merge with SPES Livorno to give birth to the current incarnation of the Livorno team - while second placed Venezia lost a relegation/promotion playoff match against the second worst team of the Serie A season that had ended, staying in Serie B and merging with Volontari Venezia. Internazionale Napoli similarly merged with Serie A team Naples, birthing the current Napoli team. Due to the amount of merged and relegated teams, five teams were admitted to the following edition of Serie B in their place: Firenze, Juventus, Modena, Pisa and former Italian champions Udinese.

32 Bologna
24 Venezia
24 Inter
18 SPES Livorno
17 Volontari Venezia
16 Internazionale Napoli
16 Torino
12 Novara
12 Piemonte
09 Juventus Roma

The Torneo FIGC was renamed Coppa FIGC, and turned into a knockout tournament not dissimilar from the FA Cup. Not long after the end of the Serie A season, the World Cup kicked off in the Netherlands.

[1] Yes, Switzerland had a Serie A before Italy did, even IOTL; due to the countries' closeness, it's not unlikely that the FIGC would look to the Alps for inspiration.
[2] As already stated earlier, these are for the most part
OTL winners of the Torneo FGNI, I used the winners of the actual OTL championship whenever the tournament did not take place in OTL.
[3] A team from Verona that was merged into Hellas Verona by the Fascist regime IOTL.
[4] All of them taken from
the OTL 1912-1913 championship.
[5] @kinnikuniverse had a few cool ideas on the subject, stay tuned.
[6] Second placed team of the OTL championship.
 
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THE STATE OF WORLD RUGBY: EUROPE

ITALY​

rugby, known as "Pallovale" there, is one of the big 4 sports in italy, along with soccer, volleyball and basketball. it's top league, the lega nazionale eccellenza, is considered a top 5 league in Europe, a distant 4th behind the French Top 16 (1st), English Premiership (2nd) and the Gaelic league (3rd).

British communities brought rugby to Genoa between 1890 and 1895, with other games in Italy around 1909. The society that organised the first games dissolved soon after.

Italian rugby's traditional heartland consists of the small country towns in the Po Valley and other parts of Northern Italy. Some believe that Italian workers returning from France, particularly the south, introduced the game and gave it a significant rural/working class base, which still exists in towns such as Treviso and Rovigo. A demonstration game was also played in 1910 in Turin between SCUF and Servette of Geneva. French students also introduced the game to Milan University c. 1911. While each of these events has been hailed as the "origin of Italian rugby", it seems that they probably happened more or less simultaneously and independent of one another, and that the introduction of rugby to Italy was a series of events, rather than a single starting point. Whatever the ultimate origins of the game in northern Italy, the region's proximity to the French rugby heartland helped as well.

The first match played by a representative Italian XV was in 1911, between US Milanese and Voiron of France. On 25 July of the same year the "Propaganda Committee" was formed which in 1928 became the Federazione Italiana Rugby (FIR).
shortly before world war 1, a schism in Italian football occurred when southern clubs complained about both the new National league format for the new natianl championship known as Serie A as well as the richer northern clubs filling their squads with foreign players. in one of the most unexpected developpements in all of sports, the clubs in question decided to switch sports completely, becoming Rugby clubs as a mean to keep their italianness. they would soon join forces with established northern rugby clubs like U.S Milanese, Petrarca and S.C Italia to form the lega nazionale eccellenza, Italy's first national rugby competition.here are the teams competing in the inaugural season of the championship:

Audace Roma
Enotria Taranto
Fortitudo Roma
Ilva Bagnolese
Itala Firenze
Libertas Palermo
Liberty Bari
Marziale Mestre
Nazionale Emilia
Petrarca
S.C. Italia
S.C. Ortigia
S.S. Umberto I
U.S. Catanese
U.S. Milanese
Vigor

thanks to Italian neutrality during the great war, Italian sports leagues could be played without interruption, and the more experienced sides form Milan and petrarca won the first 5 championships. little did they know, however, that two teams would soon join them at the top: Fortitudo Roma and Ilva Bagnolese. the former had a deep talent pool to choose from the Lazio region, while the latter was a team from napoli with considerable industrial backing. Fortitudo would win the 1918-1919 championship, while Bagnolese wpuld win three in a row from 1921 to 1923, with the bulk of the Italian national team that compete in the first rugby world cup that year coming from those 5 teams.

LEGA NAZIONALE CHAMPIONS

1913: Milanese (1)
1914: Milanese (2)
1915: petrarca (1)
1916: S.C Italia (1)
1917: Petrarca (2)
1918: Milanese (3)
1919: Fortitudo Roma (1)
1920: S.C Italia (2)
1921: Bagnolese (1)
1922: Bagnolese (2)
1923 Bagnolese (3)

FRANCE
the hexagon has the best rugby league outside of the home regions and Australia. the Bouclier De brennus is awarded to the French national champions.

The first competition was held in 1892, as a one-off championship game between the Racing Club de France and Stade Français. The Racing Club defeated Stade Français four points to three to win the first ever title, though the stadistes got their revenge the following year in a repeat of the final. The match official for that first final was Pierre de Coubertin. Stade Français would go on to win a number of titles thereafter. The 1897 and 1898 series were awarded on a points system after a round-robin. Although the competition was called the French championship, entry was confined to Parisian clubs. The 1899 season was the first to include clubs from outside of Paris, and led to Stade Bordelais(from Bordeaux) winning the final that season, which was also played outside of Paris, in Le Bouscat (a suburb of the city of Bordeaux).

For the following decade the championship game would usually end up being contested by the Racing Club, Stade Français and Stade Bordelais, with Stade Bordelais actually winning five titles during this period. During this time the final was usually held in various stadia around Paris with the exception of 1903 and 1909, when it was held in Toulouse, as SOE Toulouse and Stade Toulousain were finalists respectively. The competition was then won by a number of different clubs before World War I, with teams like FC Lyon, Stade Toulousain, Aviron Bayonnais and USA Perpignan claiming their first titles.

THE GAELIC REGION
outside of England, rugby was also a pretty popular sport. while scotland had a slight preference to football and Ireland had it's gaelic football, Wales embraced the sport like a lover to his wife, with rugby becoming the De facto national sport in the kingdom, thanks in part to its adoption by the Welsh working class. those same Welsh workers would transmit their love of rugby to the american working class when they migrated there in the early 20th century.

on the domestic club front, the Welsh premiership had a reputation for attractive, attacking rugby, with Cardiff, Newport and llalenni being the top clubs, though Swansea and Pontypridd were not far behind them. Ireland, meanwhile, didn't have a national league, instead having regional leagues covering all 4 Irish provinces. said provinces also competed in the national inter-provincial championship, which was the top tier competition in Irish rugby for a long time before the formation of the Gaelic league in the late 20th century. finally, the Scottish league is a tale of three cities: edinburgh, Glasgow and dundee.


ENGLAND
after spending the first years of the rugby Football league chasing their first titles, the London clubs finally began winning titles, with Harlequins and wasps winning their first titles in 1907 and 1908. this would be followed, however, by the Leicester tigers winning four straight titles. amidst two close title fights against Leicester and Salford, Wigan would win the last two titles before the great war.

many star players for the top clubs lost their lives during the war, which allowed new powers to rise. Harlequins would win a second title in the first post-war season in 1918, then Leeds would win their first in 1919 before losing to Salford by only 3 points in 1920. wasps would then win back-to-back titles in 1921 and 1922 and, finally, Gloucester Rugby would culminate their rise from the mid-table by winning the 1923 title by 9 points over Northampton and st. Helens. the new, faster game of rugby brought back fans to stadiums all across England, and rugby fever was running wild, with the England rugby team being the opposite of the national football team: a source of pride and a favorite to win the inaugural rugby world cup that same year. England captain Edward Myers even guaranteed that they will not suffer the same humiliation that befell the England football team in the 1906 FIFA world cup final.

1907: Harlequins (1)
1908: wasps (1)
1909: Leicester tigers (4)
1910: Leicester tigers (5)
1911: Leicester tigers (6)
1912: Leicester tigers(7)
1913: Wigan (2)
1914: Wigan (3)
1918: Harlequins (2)
1919: Leeds St. john's (1)
1920: Salford (3)
1921: wasps (2)
1922: wasps (3)
1923: Gloucester rugby (1)

NEXT ON THE STATE OF WORLD RUGBY: the birth of the NRL.
and now, let's have @Neoteros finish the 1910s before we move forward!
 


The stadium in Amsterdam where the final of the 1914 FIFA World Cup was played

Netherlands - 1914

The 1914 World Cup was the first World Cup that was not held in only one city; due to the high population density of the Netherlands and the country's small size, for the first time since 1906 several cities could host the tournament's matches: Zwolle's ZAC Stadion hosted Group A, consisting of Argentina, Belgium and Germany; Dordrecht's DFC Terrein hosted Group B, consisting of the Netherlands, Switzerland and Uruguay; Den Haag's Houtrust hosted Group C, consisting of Austria, Denmark and the United States; Amsterdam's Het Nederlandsch Sportpark, that had opened in the same year, hosted Group D, consisting of Canada, Finland and Hungary, as well as the semi-finals and the final.

Group A - ZAC Stadion, Zwolle - Argentina, Belgium, Germany

Argentina 0-2 Belgium
Argentina
5-1 Germany
Belgium 2-0 Germany

4 Belgium
2 Argentina
0 Germany

An upset in the first match of the group - with both goals scored by RC Malines striker Jan Van Cant - allowed Belgium to eliminate the defending champions from the competition, despite Argentina's subsequent victory over Germany, that finished last in the group without having won a single match.

Group B - DFC Terrein, Dordrecht - Netherlands, Switzerland, Uruguay

Netherlands 2-2 Switzerland
Netherlands 0-1 Uruguay
Switzerland 2-4 Uruguay

4 Uruguay
1 Netherlands
1 Switzerland

After the defending champions, the tournament's hosts were eliminated as well, after a draw against Switzerland and a defeat against Uruguay, that went on to top the group and qualify for the semi-final match against Belgium.

Group C - Houtrust, Den Haag - Austria, Denmark, United States

Austria 0-1 Denmark
Austria
3-0 United States
Denmark 0-3 United States

2 Austria
2 United States
2 Denmark

A shocking victory of the United States against Denmark - a goal by Brooklyn Celtic's Charles Ellis, another by Fall River Rovers' Tommy Swords, and a third by New York F.C.'s John Hemingsley - made it so that the winner of the group, Austria, was determined by goal difference.

Group D - Het Nederlandsch Sportpark, Amsterdam - Canada, Finland, Hungary

Canada
2-1 Finland
Canada 0-0 Hungary
Finland 1-3 Hungary

Hungary squeaked out of the group due to goal difference against a surprising Canadian side, guilty of one of the first instances of parking the bus in world football during their match with a clearly superior Magyar side.

3 Hungary
3 Canada
0 Finland

Semifinals - Het Nederlandsch Sportpark, Amsterdam

Belgium 1-5 Uruguay
Austria
4-2 Hungary

Austria finally got their revenge against the other Habsburg side, while Uruguay demolished Belgium with ease.

Final - Het Nederlandsch Sportpark, Amsterdam



Austria 0-3 Uruguay

Uruguay made history, as the first team to win a World Cup outside of their home continent; the road to the 1918 World Cup, however, got blocked by the start of the Great War.
 
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The Baker Bowl in Philadelphia, where the final of the 1916 American Cup was held

United States - 1916

As the Great War raged on in most of the world, the American continent - with the exception of the dependencies of several European empires - remained untouched by it; and the United States, that had been scheduled to host the 1916 American Cup before the start of the war, were especially adamant on maintaining their neutrality. Since FIFA's headquarters were in the middle of a continent where the armies of several countries were in the process of annihilating each other through bayonet and gas, the tournament was carried on by a makeshift alliance of American countries, christened CAFA. [1]

The 1916 American Cup took place between New York City and Philadelphia, with Group A - Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay - playing at Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Robins baseball team, and Group B - Chile and United States - playing at the Baker Bowl, home to another baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies; the same stadium hosted the final as well.

Group A - Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay - Ebbets Field, New York City

Argentina
2-0 Brazil
Argentina 2-2 Uruguay
Brazil 2-4 Uruguay

3 Argentina
3 Uruguay
0 Brazil

Group B - Chile, United States - Baker Bowl, Philadelphia

Chile 1-3 United States

Argentina topping Group A did not come as much of a surprise, and even the United States' victory against Chile made sense, since the Chileans had to endure a long trip to get to Philadelphia; what came afterwards, however, shocked many, even taking logistics into account.

Final - Baker Bowl, Philadelphia



Argentina 0-2 United States

Defying all odds, the United States defeated the defending American champions; even though there was no World Cup to qualify for, the victory of 1916 became a foundational moment for soccer in the United States, a moment that made the transition from amateurism to professionalism possible; [2] and even though, north of the border, many men that would've been playing soccer otherwise had been sent to die by the Crown against the armies of the Reich that would eventually win the Great War [3], many in Canada took notes nonetheless.

[1] CONMEBOL was founded in 1916 IOTL too, but its ATL equivalent spans the whole American continent.
[2] @kinnikuniverse will expand on that.
[3] With Italy and the US neutral, well... shit happened.
 
THE LEGACY OF THE U.S'S 1916 AMERICAS CUP WIN​


oh, it was a jolly parade, alright!


millions of American citizens, especially from the main soccer fan base in the country (that is, any and all immigrants from the UK, Italy and Latin america) were welcoming the U.S national team like war heroes (all except Argentine immigrants, of course). the sight of millions of people celebrating and hugging each other would make you think that america won the great war that was occurring in Europe at the same time.



to Say that winning the Americas cup kickstarted the growth of soccer In America would be a massive understatement. more and more parents, disgruntled with the more violent aspects of rugby, sent their kids to play soccer at school and college level, which, along with scottish and English immigrants and players gaining American citizenship, significantly deepened the talent pool for the U.S national team. soccer-specific stadiums were built as a replacement for previously-used baseball and rugby fields, and the nation's top league, the ASL, expanded by merging with the missouri and ohio leagues and took a significant amount of additional exposure and sponsorship money, especially when radio arrived in the 20s.


the classic ASL logo, starting in 1933

in fact, many ASL clubs, now flooding with cash thanks to the economic boom of the roaring 20s, began offering higher salaries to both their domestic players and became a major player in the global transfer market, since they offered much bigger salaries than even top European clubs, especially in the aftermath of the great war. while players coming in from Europe were mostly English and Scottish talents, america found a literal gold mine in both Mexico and south America. many Mexican players and south American internationals, including many who played in the 1916 americas cup and who would play in the 1922 world cup, moved to america as it is alot closer to home than in Europe.

in short, the ASL was the premier league before the premier league even came up in the mind of the English clubs.

however, while the roaring 20s seemed all fine and dandy for American soccer, there was a dark side behind all of this. there almost was a huge conflict between the league and the U.S soccer federation over the clubs competing in the national challenge cup, with the ASL wanting the fed to reschedule the games so that they won't travel as often, a wish they got when FIFA announced that the world cup would be held in america in 1922. the ever increasing amount of foreign players in the league throughout the 20s, while increasing the quality of play of both the league and the domestic talent, brought a significant financial toll on the clubs, and the Boston minutemen were the first team to implement a completely foreign first team in 1925. in answer to that, and to keep the talent majorly American, the U.S soccer federation implemented a foreign player limit similar to the ones found in Europe and in the national rugby league at the time, which greatly helped both local talent developpement and the finances of clubs, though they would still be hit pretty hard by the great depression at the end of the decade.

and, most importantly, the national team still didn't accept black players. the black players who played in the ASL and regional leagues were victim of racial slurs and abuse, as well as most of the Latin American players, though to a less severe level. many of these black players either went to Europe, moved up north to canada or changed sports completely, with the majority of them going to play rugby, where the recently-formed national rugby league famously supported integration of black athletes in their sport. still, there were some brave men who dared and persevered through the bigotry and became well-known names, such as goalkeeper Andy Washington, midfielder/inside forward Fritz pollard and forward cool papa bell, the latter being known as the fastest man in soccer for a long time.



Many early black soccer players also played in other sports. Washington played in the first edition of the Harlem globetrotters, Fritz pollard also played in the national rugby league before switching to soccer full time in 1926, while cool papa bell was an excellent baseball player, known for his base-stealing prowess.
but above all, the victory in the 1916 Americas cup made the USA fall in love with the beautiful game, and without that win, without the efforts of the ASL and the U.S soccer federation, soccer might not even be talked about in the same vein as rugby, baseball and basketball today. "the miracle in Philly" is one of the great moments in American history, one whose importance cannot be stressed enough.

MY NEXT POST: The birth of the National Rugby league.​
 


Legnano, surprise winners of the 1918-19 Serie A season

Italy - 1914 to 1920

The performance of the Reich on the Western Front of the Great War kept Italy neutral throughout the conflict, with Rome accepting Austria's cession of Vienna's own slice of Friuli (but not Trieste) and of Trentino (but not South Tyrol) in exchange for neutrality; [1] this meant that the Serie A could go on as usual, with Lazio winning their second consecutive championship in the 1914-15 season. [2] The 1915-16 championship was won by Juventus, that had been promoted to Serie A only a year prior, [3] with the team winning the 1916-17 Serie A as well. [4] The 1917-18 and 1918-19 championships were won, respectively, by Inter [5] and a surprising Legnano side, [6] with Inter prevailing again in the 1919-1920 edition of the league. [7]

1914-15: Lazio (2)
1915-16: Juventus (1)
1916-17: Juventus (2)
1917-18: Inter (2)
1918-19: Legnano (1)
1919-20: Inter (3)

The draconian imposition of a war indemnity of 10 billion German Marks on France by the Reich as a result of Paris' defeat was cynically taken advantage of by Rome: in an ironic reversal of similar deals that happened a century prior, Germany bought Corsica and Tunisia from France, in exchange for a very substantial reduction of the above mentioned sum, the Reich immediately ceding those lands to Italy, who had kept trading with Berlin during the war. [8] The cession of Nice and Savoy was discussed, but did not pan out, to the disappointment of Gabriele D'Annunzio. [9]

[1] OTL plan that didn't go ahead.
[2] Lazio topped their OTL regional group before the start of the war.
[3] Second placed team of the OTL national war tournament.
[4] Second placed team of the OTL Piedmontese war tournament.
[5] Second placed team of the OTL Lombard war tournament.
[6] Winner of the OTL Lombard war tournament.
[7] OTL 1919-20 winner.
[3] At least France won't be as fucked as the Weimar Republic was, I hope.
[4] D'Annunzio's chauvinist desires being denied is an universal constant.
 
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No, there will not be a rematch.

Montevideo, Uruguay - 1920

As the Great War ended and the 1920s started, these had been the winners of the prior editions of the American, European and World Cups:

Edition​
Host​
Winner​
FIFA World Cup 1906
England
Hungary
FIFA World Cup 1910
Argentina
Argentina
FIFA World Cup 1914
Netherlands
Uruguay

Edition​
Host​
Winner​
FIFA American Cup 1912
Uruguay
Argentina
CAFA American Cup 1916
United States
United States

Edition​
Host​
Winner​
FIFA European Cup 1908
France
Bohemia
FIFA European Cup 1912
Switzerland
Hungary

The 1920 editions of the American and European Cups were boycotted by the defeated Allied powers, and lack of funds in the immediate aftermath of the war meant that Switzerland and Uruguay were chosen to host the finals of their respective tournaments for the second time - the second time in a row, in the case of the Alpine country.

The American tournament saw six nations participate: the defending champions, the United States, were sorted in Group A alongside Argentina and debuting Paraguay, while host nation Uruguay was sorted in Group B alongside Brazil and Chile.

Group A - Argentina, Paraguay, United States - Parque Central, Montevideo

Argentina
4-0 Paraguay
Argentina 3-2 United States
Paraguay 2-6 United States

4 Argentina
2 United States
0 Paraguay

Even though Argentina was able to avenge their loss of the previous final against the United States, the North American team qualified for the World Cup nonetheless.

Group B - Brazil, Chile, Uruguay - Parque Central, Montevideo

Brazil
2-0 Chile
Brazil 2-2 Uruguay
Chile 0-1 Uruguay

3 Brazil
3 Uruguay
0 Chile

Brazil topped the group, qualifying for their first ever World Cup.

Final - Parque Central, Montevideo



Argentina 2-1 Brazil

Argentina confirmed itself as one of the strongest - if not the strongest - national sides around, by winning their second ever American Cup.

The European Cup saw quite a lot of sides boycott the tournament, even more so than the American one: alongside the Home Nations and France, the main losers of the Great War, Belgium and the Netherlands stayed at home, for they had been invaded by the Reich despite their neutrality as part of the Schlieffen Plan [1], with the remaining Low Country, Luxembourg, nowhere to be seen, since it had been annexed to Germany outright as a constituent monarchy, alongside Belgium's own portion of the region. [2]

Finland made its debut as an independent nation, after having appeared in previous competitions as a constituent country of the Russian Empire, while a few other members of Mitteleuropa and independent countries - such as Estonia and Greece - made their absolute debut. [3] Taking a cue from what happened across the ocean a few years prior, FIFA decided to create an Europe-only branch, christened CEFA.

[つづく - TO BE CONTINUED]

[1] The OG plan involved an invasion of the Netherlands, so...
[2] As detailed in the Septemberprogramm.
[3] Both countries made their OTL debut around the same time.
 
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A couple of thoughts on rugby going professional in the 1890s:
  • Scotland, the most conservative of the rugby unions at this point, is not going to be happy, and might refuse to recognise professional teams. Scotland also happened to be the most successful national team at this point.
  • You massively enhance the prominence of Australia (which in OTL cares about League, not Union), to a degree where it might actually displace the All Black/Springbok dominance of international rugby.
  • Wales also sees a boost, as it no longer loses players to league.
 
1920: The birth of the national rugby league
Rugby Football in america was first professionalized in 1892, when Pudge Heffelfinger and Ben "Sport" Donnelly each received a large sum of cash to play for the Allegheny Athletic Association of the Western Pennsylvania Senior IndependentRugby Football Conference. Through the 1890s and the early part of the 20th century, professional rugby was primarily a regional sport, with most informal circuits centered around a single state or region with only limited play outside state lines. There were no national leagues or tournaments for the professional game, despite numerous attempts: an earlier National Rugby league (backed by what would become today's Major League Baseball)[citation needed] was unable to expand beyond Pennsylvania in 1902, the New York City-based World Series of Rugby Football tournament disbanded after two seasons and lack of fan interest, and other attempts to either combine existing circuits or create new ones from scratch never materialized. The regional circuits had coalesced into more or fewer leagues of varying degrees of organization. One of the most prominent at the time was the Ohio Union, which boasted the services of legendary Native American athlete Jim Thorpe, among other stars. Another was the somewhat lower-caliber, but better-organized, Empire Georgraphical union; two of the New York circuit's best teams, the New York athletic club and Rochester RFC , went on a barnstorming tour of Ohio in 1917. After Rochester played, and lost badly to Thorpe's Canton Bulldogs in a 1917 match, Athletic club's owner Leo Lyons(believing that the foundation of a league could build a sport that rivaled baseball, which then held an effective monopoly on professional sport, in popularity) suggested to Thorpe that a league be formed.

Lyons' vision of a national league of existing Rugby clubs from the Northeast and great lakes-based unions(which, at the time, was competing with another proposed league, again backed by baseball) was hampered by a flu pandemic in 1918, which forced most of the Ohio Union teams to suspend operations due to either travel restrictions or loss of players to the influenza. New York's teams, although they were forced to reduce their schedules, continued and (along with the few other remaining teams that survived the suspension, including the OU's Dayton RFC and Michigan's Detroit RFC) picked up many of the stars that were unaffected by the virus. A particularly important team that played the 1918 season was the Chicago Lions football Club, which included future Hall of Famers Paddy Driscoll, George Halas and Jimmy Conzelman, all of whom were in the armed forces together and, despite some of them being professionals, competed against college rugby squads and won the 1919 Rose Bowl. These factors had the effect of spreading out the talent across a broader geographic area. Over the course of 1919, as professional rugby had increased in parity, teams began reaching out and participating in more barnstorming tours. By then, two informal but distinct interstate circuits had developed: one around the Eastern Seaboard (particularly New York City, New Jersey, and Philadelphia) that played mostly on Saturdays due to blue laws, and another centered around the Midwestern region (Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, and upstate New York) that played on Sundays. It was the latter that formed the basis of what would eventually become the modern National Rugby League.

Ohio's teams went along with the idea in the face of escalating costs: several bidding wars in the early 1900s, both in Pennsylvania and Ohio, had damaged the sport significantly, and another bidding war was about to erupt if something was not done. By forming a national league, teams reasoned that it would eliminate the practices of looting other teams' rosters and concentrating top talent in only a few teams, thus distributing talent more evenly and efficiently thereby reducing costs for each individual team while still keeping a top-level product on the field.

On August 20, 1920, at a Hupmobile dealership in Canton, Ohio, the league was formalized, originally as the American Professional Rugby Football Championship, using a similar format to England's rugby Football league, with the team finishing 1st at the end of the regular season being crowned the champion, while the teams finishing in the bottom 3 spots gets relegated. here are the clubs that competed in this first season of top flight American rugby:

- Akron Rugby
- Columbus RFC
- Chicago Lions
- Green Bay Packers
- New York Athletic Club
- New York Rugby Club
- Dayton
- Detroit RFC
- Canton Bulldogs
- Toledo Celtic
- cleveland rovers RFC
- Metropolis RFC (minnesota)
- whitemarsh RFC (Philadelphia)
- Indianapolis Impalas
- Princeton RFC
- Buffalo
- Rochester RFC
- Chicago Griffins

The eleven founding teams initially struck an agreement over player poaching and the declaration of an end-of-season champion. Thorpe, while still playing for the Bulldogs, was elected president. the undefeated Akron Rugby claimed the first championship. the number of teams the in the top flight increased to 22 teams
in 1921, but throughout the 1920s the membership was unstable and the league was not a major national sport comparable to baseball or even the American soccer league, which was still riding high on the 1916 americas cup win and the roaring 20s's economic boom . On June 24, 1922, the organization, now headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, changed its title a final time to the National Rugby League.

The lack of a firm league structure meant that numerous teams regularly were added and removed from the league each year. many big clubs also frequently hired expensive foreign players, mainly from the still amateur scotland, Australasia and the cash-strapped post-war France, making it hard for smaller teams to catch up, with the green bay packers, canton bulldogs and whitemarsh the only teams able to compete with the new York and Chicago teams.

the arrivals of many UK and french internationals into the league brought the attention of the entire rugby world and added legitimacy to the NRL. many of these foreigners, such as Welsh full back jim Sullivan of the Chicago Lions, french winger adolphe jaureguy and Welsh forward Charlie pugh of new York athletic club and scotsman Ernest fahmy of whitemarsh RFC becoming big stars, especially Sullivan, who set many records for points scored and field goals.

however, the most important developpement in the upstart league is the open acceptance of players of other races. jim Thorpe, himself a native American, made open efforts to integrate black and other native American players into the professional game, a choice which not everybody agreed with. nonetheless, that move prompted many black athletes to switch sports to rugby which, in turn, made the sport increasingly more popular in the various black communities. the fact that it was a contact sport also pleased the more anger-prone black athletes, who vented their frustrations into their tackles. native Americans and hawaiians, just like the Maoris in New zealand, found in rugby a way to make their voices heard. no doubt, it was for these exact reasons that Thorpe insisted on racial intergration, and continued to vouch for them throughout his presidency, which was marked by a tireless struggle to have the national team be intergrated.


Jim Thorpe: player, captain, President, pioneer

the formation of the NRL and the new structuring of the college scene was a significant boost to the talent pool of the national team, who, in the years and test matches leading to the first ever rugby world cup in 1923, managed to put up more of a fight against the top nations, including their first wins against ireland and Australia as well as much-publicised draws against england, wales and, most importantly, the all blacks. and thus, it is with great optimism that the USA eagles marched on to London in 1923, feeling that they might go very far into this inaugural world cup. indeed, with a roster that contained Paddy Driscoll, George Halas, Jimmy Conzelman, red grange, George trafton, Jim Thorpe, cal Hubbard, Pete henry, earl "curly" lambeau and the first african-american international in fritz pollard, The U.S national team has more than enough tools to take on the favorites...

TO BE CONTINUED IN: 1923 RUGBY WORLD CUP PREVIEW​
 
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A couple of thoughts on rugby going professional in the 1890s:
  • Scotland, the most conservative of the rugby unions at this point, is not going to be happy, and might refuse to recognise professional teams. Scotland also happened to be the most successful national team at this point.
  • You massively enhance the prominence of Australia (which in OTL cares about League, not Union), to a degree where it might actually displace the All Black/Springbok dominance of international rugby.
  • Wales also sees a boost, as it no longer loses players to league.
...did I do something wrong? cause if I did, I'm sorry.
 
No, you haven't done anything wrong. I'm just speculating how the sport would have developed with that POD.

(I'm a New Zealander. The history of rugby is important to me. :))
no way, a real kiwi! holy crap, this is actually awesome! I'm a big fan of new zealand, and it's actually a dream of mine to visit the country, what with me being a LOTR and fellow rugby fan!

now, with those recent developpements, how do you think new zealand would fare? would they be just as dominant as OTL now that the US banned football and play rugby instead and that the other nations are strengthened as well? and do you see new zealand players going to america and nearby australia instead of Europe to get paid ITTL?
 


Pichichi, a very unlucky son of a bitch

1920 - Bern, Switzerland

Even though the 1920 European Cup, just like the American Cup that took place in the same year, was boycotted by the Home Nations and the other Allied powers, it nonetheless saw a surprising amount of debuts, to the point that two more countries were admitted to the final phase of the tournament, bringing the total to 8 - a number that coincided with the amount of available slots for European teams in the World Cup.

The first matches of the qualifying round were Greece-Italy and Estonia-Finland, both ending in a rather predictable way as the Italians beat the Greeks 10-0 and the Finns humiliated their Baltic cousins 15-0. Debuting Spain, on the other hand, defeated Switzerland 4-2, while Germany qualified at the expense of Latvia, defeated by 6 goals to 1. Denmark-Norway ended 3 to 1 in favour of the Danish side, while Sweden defeated Lithuania 5-0. Inside the Habsburg realm, Austria defeated the side of the new crown of Croatia 5 to 2 (the fact that the "Croatian" side was filled to the brim with Bosniak, Montenegrin, Serbian and Slovenian players that hated each other almost as much as they hated Austria did not help the Balkan team) while Bohemia surprisingly qualified 1-0 over Hungary - or not so surprisingly, since even the Crown of Saint Stephen was facing trouble at home, in the form of restless Romanian and Slovak minorities.

Group A - Bohemia, Germany, Spain, Sweden

Bohemia
3-1 Germany
Spain 2-2 Sweden

Bohemia 3-4 Spain
Germany
2-0 Sweden

Bohemia 1-0 Sweden
Spain 3-2 Germany

5 Bohemia
5 Spain
2 Germany
1 Sweden

Group B - Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy

Austria 0-0 Denmark
Finland 0-5 Italy

Austria
8-0 Finland
Denmark 2-1 Italy

Austria 3-3 Italy
Denmark 0-1 Finland

4 Austria
3 Italy
3 Denmark
2 Finland

The 1920 European Cup was the first one to feature a semi-final round, with the winner of Group A going against the runner-up of Group B, and vice versa; Bohemia easily overcame Italy 6-2, while Spain, thanks to the physically frail (he would die from typhus in 1922 [1]) but immensely talented Pichichi, prevailed over Austria 2-1. In the third place match, another innovation of that edition that would go on to become a mainstay, Italy defeated the Habsburg side 3-0, with a hattrick by Alessandria's Adolfo Baloncieri, one of the first true stars of the game south of the Alps.

Final - Sportplatz Spitalacker, Bern



Bohemia 0-3 Spain

The eventual Olympic runner-ups [2] won the 1920 trophy, with all the goals being scored by players of Basque or Catalan descent: Athletic Bilbao's Acedo and Pichichi, as well as Barcelona's Samitier.

[1] Yes, this happened in OTL as well.
[2] As in OTL.
 
STATE OF CANADIAN SPORTS AFTER THE GREAT WAR
while their neighbors down south stayed neutral and enjoyed a boom period in terms of sports, entertainment and economy, the 20s wasn't so roaring for Canadian sports, as many of the best Canadian athletes lost their live fighting for England in the allied force's losing effort. despite this, Canada also enjoyed an economic boom during the decade, and people were growing fond of other sports besides hockey. their connection with the British Empire made sure that rugby and soccer were frequently played in the summer, with amateur baseball leagues and tournaments also popping up across the country as the american influence in the maple leaf kept growing. while the performances of the Canadian national team in the early editions of the world cup boosted soccer's popularity, it was ultimately rugby that prevailed as the summer sport in Canada, though the 20s signaled a sort of golden age for Canadian soccer, as many American players belonging to minorities, especially African-americans and natives, frequently moved north of the border in order to play the sport they love without being on the receiving end of any racial slurs and abuse. while the national team remained segregated during those years, the sight of those african-americans playing on the fields across Canada inspired many future black canadian athletes, such as number 10 herb Carnegie, one of the best players to ever play for the Canadian national soccer team.

for much of its history until the 1950s, Canadian professional rugby and soccer operated with two national leagues, as cross-country travel was inaccessible in those times. the eastern provinces had the inter-provincial rugby Football league and National soccer league, while western canada had the Western inter-provincial rugby league and the Western canada soccer league, each having its own pyramid and operating in a standard league format, woth the champions of both leagues playing each other in a end-of-season championship game to decide the national champion.

the top clubs in Canadian rugby were clubs from western canada and the toronto area. the Calgary hornets, James bay of victoria, the Edmonton pirates and the saskatchewan clubs wild oats and Regina RFC frequently represents the Western provinces in the championship game, while the inter-provincial rugby Football League was almost exclusively won by toronto clubs, with Varsity Club, toronto nomads and Argonauts being the top clubs, though the Ottawa roughriders, Oshawa vikings, Montreal irish and RC Montreal did manage to win titles. RC Montreal and the roughriders, especially, were the closest club in quality to the toronto ones, with Montreal boasting a talented roster led by prop and future businessman/team owner owner Leo Dandurand.

soccer, meanwhile, was the complete opposite, with clubs from Quebec and the Atlantic provinces being the top clubs in the country. FC Montreal, Moncton schooners, Dynamo Quebec, st. John's United, Westmoun FC and Halifax United winning most of the titles and cups, along with Ottawa south shore, Galt FC, Cavalry FC of Calgary and FC Edmonton.

the Canadian rugby team has also improved their results in test matches during the early 20s, now winning the battle of the border against the U.S more often than before, and they even gave England and Scotland a scare, losing each time by only one try. players like Leo Dandurand best symbolises what the Canadian rugby team is all about: what it lacks in offensive talent, they make up for it with sheer physical toughness, excellent defensive organisation and powerful forward play. they head to the 1923 rugby world cup with the ambition of making it to the knockout stages...the soccer team, meanwhile, eagerly awaits the 1924 americas cup, as they have been chosen as the hosts! with a good mix of hard work and experience, Canada hopes to cause upsets like the teams of the 1910s!

TO BE CONTINUED IN THE 1923 RUGBY WORLD CUP PREVIEW.
EDIT: damn, forgot Canada boycotted the 1920 americas cup, so they won't be in the 1922 world cup :tiredface:
 
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Relevant? Relevant!

The 1922 FIFA World Cup took place in the United States, featuring the highest number of stadiums a World Cup had seen since then: while the final and the semi-finals were held in baseball fields - the final at the Polo Grounds, home to the New York Giants and New York Yankees, the first semi-final at the Ebbets Field and the second semi-final at the Baker Bowl - the group stages were hosted in actual soccer stadiums: Group A (Brazil, Finland, Spain) played its games in Rhode Island's Mark's Stadium, home of Fall River; Group B (Argentina, Bohemia, Denmark) played in the Bethlehem Steel Athletic Field; Group C (Italy, Sweden, United States) was hosted at Brooklyn's Todd Shipyards Athletic Field, while Group D (Austria, Germany, Uruguay) played in Holyoke's Farr Alpaca Field.

Group A - Brazil, Finland, Spain - Mark's Stadium, North Tiverton, Rhode Island

Brazil
2-0 Finland
Brazil 3-6 Spain
Finland 1-1 Spain

3 Spain
2 Brazil
1 Finland

Group B - Argentina, Bohemia, Denmark - Bethlehem Steel Athletic Field, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Argentina 0-0 Bohemia
Argentina 5-2 Denmark
Bohemia 2-1 Denmark

3 Argentina
3 Bohemia
0 Denmark

Group C - Italy, Sweden, United States - Todd Shipyards Athletic Field, New York City, New York

Italy
3-0 Sweden
Italy 3-2 United States
Sweden 0-1 United States

4 Italy
2 United States
0 Sweden

Group D - Austria, Germany, Uruguay - Farr Alpaca Field, Holyoke, Massachusetts

Austria
4-2 Germany
Austria 2-1 Uruguay
Germany 3-2 Uruguay

4 Austria
2 Germany
0 Uruguay

The dismal performance of Uruguay was perhaps the biggest surprise in the group stage; the match between Italy and the United States featured, in the crowd, the heads of government of both nations, Prime Minister Filippo Turati and President James Cox, [1] that were famously photographed drinking beer in the stands. [2]

Semifinals

Argentina
3-1 Austria
Italy 1-0 Spain

Third Place Match

Spain
6-3 Austria

Final - Polo Grounds, New York City, New York



Argentina
4-2 Italy

Argentina won their second World Cup, after the one they'd won in 1910; as the 1926 World Cup would've featured the return of the Home Nations and of the former Allied representatives, FIFA decided to increase the amount of available World Cup spots from 12 to 16, with one extra spot for the Americas, one extra spot for Europe, a spot for Africa (UAFA) and a spot for Asia and Oceania (FAFA).

Several countries bid to host the tournament: aside from Ireland (that had been granted Home Rule by a Crown weakened by the war) and Scotland, there were bids by France and Switzerland, that had hosted the finals of the European tournament in the past. [3]

[1] With Italy staying neutral in the war and the Russian Republic being an example of democratic socialism in action, politics south of the Alps take an alternate course.
[2] Similar butterflies caused Prohibition to be strangled in the cradle; however, with no Great War, minority and women's rights in the US may be negatively impacted.
[3] You decide.
 
QUALIFYING FOR THE 1923 RUGBY WORLD CUP

1923 NATIONS LEAGUE
the winter 1923 edition of the rugby nations league was held without the presence of the home nations, as they were granted automatic qualification due to England hosting the inaugural rugby world cup in the summer of that same year, and they instead competed in test matches against each other and the UK's former colonies . the nations league still had 14 teams participating, though, as 4 nations made their debut: Ukraine, Poland, Austria and "croatia" (in reality, a team full of Serbian players competing in scotland. they were understandably salty that they are not representing their country.)

the nations league took place in Italy, with the Italians, French, Russians and Romanians being favorites for qualification for the world cup, along with the new look Spain, whose annexation of the French portions of Catalonia and the Basque country significantly boosted their talent pool.

after some intense competition, it would be Italy who would come out as the European champions of rugby, on the back of solid performances from players playing for the big 5 clubs in Italy. France finishes runner-ups with 3 points behind, with Spain showing how much better they are with the former french Catalan and Basque players, finishing only 7 points behind italy. the final qualifying spot for the European zone was between Russia, Romania and the surprising Serbian "croatian" team, each being 2-3 points from each other. despite being the major world superpower, Germany still sucked at rugby, finishing in a lowly mid-table position.

in the end, it would be Romania who clinches the final qualification spot in dramatic fashion, scoring a late field goal at the 79th minute against Russia to seal their ticket to London!


1923 NATIONS LEAGUE WINNER:



PACIFIC
meanwhile, in the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand were automatically qualified after accepting the home nations's invitation as former colonies of the UK. as such, the all-pacific championship was only contested with 5 teams. in the end, after a tense struggle against Tonga and Hawaii, Samoa would come out on top and qualify for the world cup. Australia helped them with their travel expenses so they can come to London.

AFRICA
south Africa is the only country on the continent playing rugby, so yeah, they're in.

AMERICAS
in a special qualifying tournament encompassing both americas, the US, Canada, Argentina and Uruguay easily qualified, though Canada's slip-up against Chile and the US drawing against Uruguay in a game they should've won showed a lapse of concentration from the two north American outfits...

TEAMS QUALIFIED FOR THE 1923 RUGBY WORLD CUP
- England
- Ireland
- Wales
- Scotland
- France
- Italy
- spain
- Romania
- New zealand
- Australia
- Samoa
- South Africa
- United States
- Canada
- Argentina
- Uruguay

UP NEXT: 1923 WORLD CUP PREVIEW FEAT. DRAWING OF THE 4 GROUPS.​
 
1923 RUGBY WORLD CUP


the original Wembley stadium, where two Quarter-finals matchups, the semis and finals of the 1923 Rugby world cup was played. brace yourself, folks, it's gonna be a wild ride.
a ton of questions surrounded the first edition of the inaugural world cup of rugby, held in the game's birthplace, England. it was to be the ultimate test for the sport of rugby football, to see how far it came from all the rule changes and infighting. it was the perfect opportunity to see if the sport had any future.

judging by the crowds that came en masse to the four stadiums that hosted the group stages, on that front, it was a success. each games were sold out, with the knockout matches at the brand new wembley stadium setting attendance world records for rugby.

as for the on the field product?

well, let's just say that the fans got their money's worth, as the 1923 rugby world cup was one of the most unpredictable and exciting tournaments in sports history!

it all started with group A, played at Twickenham. England and new zealand, two teams slated to win it all, easily qualified for the quarter-finals without Any difficulties, with their only losses being against each other. Argentina, while putting up a valiant effort, were simply outmatched, while Samoa was nothing more than a punching bag, though they caused a surprise when, in their last match, they drew against the albiceleste.

GROUP A: Twickenham

england 17-9 argentina
New zealand 49-0 samoa
england 34-6 samoa
New Zealand 24-14 argentina
england 20 - 14 New zealand
Argentina 34-6 Samoa
England 27-14 argentina
New zealand 14 - 6 samoa
new zealand 17 - 9 argentina
England 12 - 3 samoa
England 9 - 12 new zealand
Argentina 20-20 samoa

england 10
new zealand 10
Argentina 3
Samoa 1

group B, held at Stamford Bridge, is where things got alot more interesting! it was seen as the group of death, as it was composed of 4 teams who had a shot at going far: Wales, Italy, South Africa and the United States. it saw Wales on the verge of elimination after suffering defeats at the hands of South Africa and the Americans, with their sole points coming from a victory against Italy and a draw against the US. however, a shocking south African defeat against the Italians, the azzura's only victory of the whole tournament, revived the welsh's hopes of qualifying. captain Charlie Pugh rallied his men, and star fullback Jim Sullivan dismantled the springboks almost by himself, scoring all the points in an extraordinary performance that allowed Wales to join the Americans into the quarter-finals!

GROUP B: Stamford Bridge
Wales 9-9 united states
south Africa 17 - 9 italy
Wales 20-12 italy
United states 14-9 South africa
Wales 6-12 South africa
United states 24-12 italy
Wales 14-35 united states
south Africa 17-20 italy
Wales 27-16 south africa
United states 18-10 italy

United states 9
wales 5
south Africa 4
Italy 2

however, the dramatic and spectacular made way for sheer lunacy at the craven cottage, as it seemed none of the group C teams wanted to qualify for the knockout stages! first, there was the upset draw between recently-professionalised Scotland and Canada, then, the surprising Romanians managed to barely beat Spain,whom many thought they had an outside chance at qualifying thanks to their roster full of former french Catalan and Basque players.

and then, all hell broke loose: the Romanians shocked the entire cottage, beating the number 4 ranked Scotland by a field goal before drawing against a Canadian side that should've beaten them handily. it wasn't the end for Scotland's suffering, as the Basque and Catalan Spanish players pulled off a miraculous comeback to win it 20-17! and while Scotland won the return match against the Romanians and the canadians, the Romanians would beat Spain in an exciting match to be top of the table and secure a spot in the quarters with 7 points, Scotland behind them with 5 and Spain and Canada tied at 4 points each heading into the final matchday of the group! in what would be known as the thriller at craven cottage, Scotland would barely qualify for the quarters with a late try by Ernest fahrmy against spain, thus cancelling Canada's win over the table-topping Romanians!

GROUP C: Craven Cottage

Scotland 14-14 canada
Spain 12-14 romania
Scotland 10-12 Romania
Spain 24-16 canada
Scotland 17-20 spain
Canada 12-12 romania
Scotland 21-12 Canada
Spain 21-29 romania
Scotland 34-6 Romania
Spain 16-21 canada
Scotland 20-17 spain
Canada 21-14 romania

Romania 7
Scotland 7
Canada 6
Spain 4

Group D, held at the Boleyn ground, in west ham, was possibly the toughest of the groups, with Ireland, France, Uruguay and Australia all having quality in their first teams. Ireland, after a loss against the French and a draw against the wallabies, would comfortably top the group, but it was wide open for other three teams, especially with australia's not one, but TWO shocking losses against Uruguay! in fact, that uruguayan second win against the Aussies is what allowed the inconsistent Frenchmen to qualify despite losing to Ireland in the final matchday! what a French way to save your butts!

GROUP D: Boleyn ground

Ireland 24-12 uruguay
France 16-29 australia
Ireland 9-6 Australia
France 28-0 uruguay
Ireland 16-21 france
Australia 9-14 uruguay
Ireland 24-9 uruguay
France 21-34 Australia
Ireland 21-21 australia
France 13-9 Uruguay
Ireland 19-12 france
Australia 12-15 uruguay

Ireland 9
France 6
Australia 5
Uruguay 4

the quarter-finals, determined by lottery draw and held at both Twickenham and Wembley, would provide even more spectacle for the hundreds of thousands in attendance! in a game full of grit and tough physical play, the USA outmuscled the Scotsmen 16-12 thanks to a try by hooker George Trafton at the 67th minute, while England would win a bloody and ugly battle against their Welsh rivals 9-6, all points coming from field goals.

QUARTER-FINALS 1: WEMBLEY STADIUM

United States 16-12 Scotland
England 9-6 Wales

meanwhile, at Twickenham, the French proceeded to do perhaps the frenchiest thing they've ever done: they proceeded to blow a 16-point lead to, guess who, the FREAKING ROMANIANS!! those pesky eastern europeans would shock the world again, winning 21-16 and punching their ticket to the semi-finals!!

the other game at twickenham was the complete opposite of insane, as new zealand dully thrashed Ireland 34-19.


QUARTER-FINALS 2: TWICKENHAM

France 16-21 Romania
Ireland 19-34 New zealand


WATCHA GON' DO, BROTHER, WHEN ROMANIA RUNS WILD ON YOU???
Sadly, it would be the end of the Cinderella run for the Romanians, as they were simply no match for the all blacks's wrath, losing 28-9 as the kiwis competed in their first, of what looked to be many more, world cup final.

the next day, Wembley stadium was at full capacity as the English eagerly anticipated their national team's showdown against the Americans. team captain edward Myers even guaranteed in the times that England would not suffer the same humiliating defeat that the national football team, stated to return to the FIFA world cup along with the home nations in 1926, had suffered in the 1906 FIFA world cup.

in some ways, the prediction turned true, as Wembley witnessed a highly-contested matchup between the former great world power and it's former colony now-turned-great power of its own. the game was so even that it went to extra time, the first world cup game to do so. England managed to score a field goal at the end of extra time, but a spectacular drop goal from American fly half paddy Driscoll tied the game and sent it to double extra time! taking advantage of the tired English defense, Fritz pollard ran down the left wing and tossed the ball over to earl lambeau, who flicked it to captain jim Thorpe for the game-winning try! silence befell Wembley stadium as Driscoll converts the two extra points to seal the game and send the US to the finals!

United states 23-16 England (double extra time)
New Zealand 28-9 romania

finally,the stage was set: the USA against the all blacks, home to some of the game's biggest stars, the birthplace of the modern version of rugby. it was the master vs the student. almost 15 years after the original all blacks toured the US, did the Americans learned their lesson?

it resulted in a dramatic,defensive affair, with the score being 9-9 after 70 minutes of pulse-pounding action. at the 75th minute, George nepia scored a drop goal, making it 12-9 for the all blacks. all they needs to do was contain the Americans and they would win the world cup!

only a brick wall could stop them from doing it.

its name was Fritz pollard.

the African American freed himself from his tackler and began running down the wing before passing it to native american center "big chief" joe guyon, who got tackled at the 20 yard line. expecting paddy Driscoll to do a drop kick to the the game, the all blacks bum rushed him...only to leave pollard completely alone, prompting Driscoll to kick a beautiful through ball to the African American, who beat his pursuer in a foot race to grab the ball and plant it into the endzone for the game-winning try at the 80th minute! not even paddy Driscoll missing the conversion stopped the Americans from celebrating their first victory against the all blacks and their first ever world cup!

there, in front of the entire world, white men, native Americans and Africans Americans were celebrating, drinking champagne and lifting the trophy together on the podium! they may be from different races and backgrounds, but their teamwork and trust toward each other led them to the promised land! the impact of such a historic moment on American society will be discussed another time, cause, for now, the US are world champions, and rugby is here to stay! FIFA will have a tough act to follow in 1926!

GRAND FINAL
United states 14-12 New zealand

1923 RUGBY WORLD CUP WINNERS:
1581734230077.png


THIRD PLACE MATCH:

England 24-12 romania

*this tournament was simulated using the 60-20-20 and 40-40-20 system.
 
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The scores are a bit inflated for 1920s rugby. Check out , for example, the 1923 Five Nations - not a single match where both sides hit double figures.
 
The scores are a bit inflated for 1920s rugby. Check out , for example, the 1923 Five Nations - not a single match where both sides hit double figures.
well, ITTL, they adopted some OTL league rules to make the game more offense-oriented, so I though the score would go up.

Universal Rugby Rules (penalty goals are 3 points ITTL)

(actually, I gotta admit, my spoiled millennial mind can't even imagine a time where boring games like that were the norm :winkytongue: sarcastic, of course)
 
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