England v Scotland The Origins Of The Calcutta Cup

The oldest and probably most famous trophy in rugby, is the Calcutta Cup, played for annually between Scotland and England.

However many people are unaware of the origins of this famous piece of silverware.

The story begins with the popular introduction of rugby to India in 1872, the Calcutta  Rugby Football Club was established by former students of Rugby School in January 1873, and the club then went on to join the Rugby Football Union in 1874.

However, with the departure of a local British army regiment (and perhaps more crucially the cancellation of the free bar at the club!), interest in rugby diminished in the area and sports such as tennis and polo began to thrive as they were better suited to the Indian climate.

Whilst the Calcutta Rugby Football Club was disbanded in 1878, members decided to keep the memory of the club alive by having the remaining 270 silver rupees in their bank account melted down to be made into a trophy.

The trophy was then presented to the Rugby Football Union  to be used as “the best means of doing some lasting good for the cause of Rugby Football.”

The trophy, which stands at approximately 18 inches (45 cm) high, sits on a wooden base whose plates hold the date of each match played; the winning country and the names of both team captains.

The silver cup is delicately etched and decorated with three king cobras who form the handles of the cup and sitting atop the circular lid is an Indian elephant.

The original trophy is still in existence but years of mistreatment (including a drunken kick about in 1988 on Princes Street in Edinburgh by the England player Dean Richards and the Scottish player John Jeffrey in which the trophy was used as the ball) have left it too fragile to be moved from its permanent home at the Museum of Rugby in Twickenham.

Instead both England and Scotland have full size models of the cup to be displayed by the winning team and when England are the victors the original trophy is displayed by the Museum of Rugby in a purpose-built trophy cabinet with revolving stand.


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