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The history of rugby union video games: 1984 - 2008

By Jack Tunney

Rugby has a rich history of video games, from the likes of Jonah Lomu Rugby to the classic Rugby 08, and even recently the coveted Rugby Challenge series.


As a young rugby fan, there was nothing better than getting home after playing rugby on a cold wet Sunday morning, to then sit down in front of the PlayStation to control your favourite team.
Many hours would be spent running through players as Jonah Lomu or running around them as Jason Robinson. Lining up the furthest possible kick you could as Jonny Wilkinson with 99 kicking ability was always a challenge well taken.

Unfortunately, nowadays there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of funding for rugby games with EA Sports no longer releasing their rugby titles. As a result since 2007 it’s been the likes of Eko Software and Wicked Witch Software picking up the slack.

Despite calls from the likes of Ugo Monye for further development of the virtual game, there has been no solid movement as of yet. When you compare the likes of FIFA and the growth of football, rugby appears to be very much behind in progressing the game through virtual means.

Despite this, there’s no doubt rugby has had its fair share of quality titles in the past. So, let’s have a look at the history of rugby video games through the ages:

Scrum Try (Data East Corp.) – 1984

Well before the days of the PlayStation 1, the original Xbox, and even the Nintendo 64, came the DECO Cassette System. A retro gaming system that gave us our first taste of video game rugby. Released in 1984, Scrum Try was a game at its most basic level, but for the time, no less enjoyable. Check it out below:

Super Rugby (TSS) – 1989

Just 5 years later we were treated to the graphically improved Super Rugby (Japan) game on the NES system.

Rugby: The World Cup (Domark) – 1991

Coinciding with the second ever world cup, this game was a huge step forward in rugby gaming with many of the big platforms at the time hosting the game, including Amiga, Atari ST and Commodore 64.

World Class Rugby (Audiogenic Software Ltd.) – 1991

1991 was a big year for rugby games, with World Class Rugby challenging the market for the top spot in the niche. This game was notable for the ability to customise kit colours as well as the introduction of the ‘kick-o-metre’ which would determine the strength of a player’s kick.

International Rugby Challenge (Domark) – 1993

This was the first rugby game to come to the Mega Drive and was met with much applause from fans, contrary to the release on the Commodore Amiga which was littered with issues including simple spelling mistakes and bugs causing regular crashes.

Rugby World Cup ’95 (EA Sports) – 1995

The first instalment of arguably the most successful rugby series ever created, EA sports first took to the game in a collaboration with the 1995 world cup. It was miles ahead of any other game that had been created at the time, and really gave fans their first chance to feel like they were actually playing the game of rugby at home.

Jonah Lomu Rugby (Codemasters) – 1997


Still to this day, many fans believe this to be the pinnacle of virtual rugby. With the ability to control an overpowered Jonah Lomu, this was the first-time players could find themselves able to return time and time again to take control of their favourite teams without gamer fatigue.

Rugby (EA Sports) – 2000

Building on their previous success in 1995, EA Sports released the first instalment of their regular video game release that would go on to become loved all over the world. Often now found in the bargain bins at your local HMV (is that still going?), this video game was once at the forefront of the sports gaming community.
With the smoothest graphics and the best rucking capabilities known at the time, this game has gone down in folklore.

Rugby 2004 (EA Sports) – 2003

After the success of the original two EA Sports games, Rugby 2004 was met with much anticipation. It was hosted by many of the top platforms at the time and was received with solid reviews. With slightly chunky graphics it still had a way to go but it was still the most complete rugby game to date.

World Championship Rugby (Acclaim Entertainment) – 2004

Challenging the EA Sports stranglehold on rugby games came a release from Swordfish Studios, many of whom were behind the classic Jonah Lomu Rugby title back in 1997. Whilst this was a game designed around the world cup, it was released after the tournament which unfortunately affected product sales.

Rugby 2005 (EA Sports) – 2005

This was a markable improvement on the previous version of the game, with many critics appreciating the improved graphics and the smoother gameplay.

Rugby 06 (EA Sports) – 2006


This was the biggest step forward in EA’s rugby journey, with greatly improved graphics and a hugely increased number of competitions for gamers to partake in, including the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.
This game also included overpowered attributes for particular players which allowed you as a gamer to really feel like you were getting the best out of your players.

Rugby Challenge 2006 (Hip Interactive, Ubisoft) – 2006

2006 was a great time for rugby gaming fans with the release of a competitor to the EA franchise. Although this title didn’t quite have the funding that the EA game did, it still held its own with smooth graphics and more unpredictable gameplay, earning itself a loyal fanbase.

Rugby 08 (EA Sports) – 2008

This was the last release of a rugby video game for quite some time, and what a way to end the EA Sports coalition with rugby. Argued by many to still be the best rugby game to play today, this title had everything.
For its time the graphics were as good as they got, the licences were all on point, the gameplay was smooth, and it was addictive enough for players to keep coming back.
Even 15 years on there are calls for this game to be remastered or even just re-released on new consoles so that gamers can play this beautiful game once again.


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