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Q. When William Webb Ellis picked up a football and ran with it, thus historically inventing the game of rugby, presumably the ball was spherical. When and why did rugby adopt an oval ball? Did other oval ball sports (Aussie rules and American football) derive from rugby or did they evolve separately?

A. The Webb Ellis myth is one of sport's misconceptions. It is impossible to "invent" a sport by one single action, they develop over a period of time following modifications by human interactions. American football appears to find its roots in rugby because Harvard, probably the most prestigious of all US Colleges, preferred the handling rather than kicking form of football, the social elite of that university using their influence to popularise that particular style of the game. Australian rules may owe something to aboriginal input, though it appears more likely that the original rules, drafted by three Englishmen and one Australian, were an amalgam of rules in use at English public schools.


Retford, Notts

Q. It is often reckoned down in Dorset that Poole is the largest town in England which has never had a team in the Football League. Can anyone confirm or deny the truth behind this urban myth?

A. Much depends on the definition of a town. Like another candidate, Salford, Poole is not an independent town. It forms a conurbation with Bournemouth and Christchurch and it can be argued that AFC Bournemouth is the area's team. While it can be said that Poole is a town, with a mayor and a council, the same can be said of the much larger London boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth. The largest independent towns in England without League teams are probably Milton Keynes, Basildon and Crawley.


Morden, Surrey

Answers please

Q. Why do many rugby league teams wear chevrons on their shirts when rugby union teams do not. What does the chevron signify?



Q. When Anil Kumble took 10 wickets in a Test innings recently, the not out batsman was Waqar Younis. Who was the not out Australian when Laker first achieved the feat in 1956? In the first innings, when Laker took nine wickets, who were the two batsmen who did not fall prey to the Surrey spinner?