What is the Calcutta Cup?

The Calcutta Cup is a sporting trophy awarded to the winner of the annual rugby union international fixture between England and Scotland which, nowadays, is played as part of the Six Nations Nations Championship. Indeed, the Calcutta Cup has the distinction of being the oldest sporting trophy of its kind, having been contested for the first time the better part of a century and a half ago.

The first Calcutta Cup match was played at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh, as part of the Home Nations series of international friendly matches between England, Ireland and Scotland, on March 10, 1879. England forward George Burton scored the only try of the match, which was successfully converted by three-quarters Lennard Stokes, while Scotland scored a drop goal, courtesy of scrum-half Ninian Finlay. However, at the time, matches were decided on goals scored, so the inugural Calcutta Cup matched ended in an uninspiring 1-1 draw.

Nowadays, the venue for the Calcutta Cup match alternates between Twickenham, London and Murrayfield, Edinburgh, but the origin of the trophy lies, unsurprisingly, in India. In January, 1873, during the days of the British Raj, the Calcutta (Rugby) Football Club was founded in the then capital city of India, Calcutta (now Kolkata), by former pupils of Rugby School and joined the Rugby Football Union (RFU) the following year.

However, in 1878, with the popularity of rugby on the wane, the club was disbanded and the balance of its funds, 270 silver rupees, were smelted and crafted into a trophy by local silversmiths. The original trophy, which still exists, but remains permanently at the World Rugby Museum at Twickenham, is 18″ high and decorated with three king cobras, which form the handles, and an Indian elephant. The trophy was presented to the RFU, which decided against awarding it to the winner of a knockout competition among English clubs, as was the original intention, and decreed that it should be awarded to the winners of the annual England-Scotland match instead.

Post Navigation