This week’s episode of ‘Rugby Reloaded’ looks at how Leicester Tigers saved rugby union in the early 1900s. The history of folk football in Leicestershire extends back into the middle ages, and rugby was the first football code to take root there in the 1870s. Just as in the north of England, rugby became a mass spectator sport run on professional lines.
But after 1895, the Tigers made themselves a bulwark of the RFU, which in turn whitewashed the club’s many breaches of amateurism. If Leicester had switched codes, the history of rugby would have been very different – but, instead, they became the club that saved English rugby union from the rugby league threat.